It is believed that the network, which will target assets like military bases, oil fields, and embassies, is operating in the Central African Republic, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Niger, and Sudan, among other nations.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the network was uncovered following several arrests in Chad in April.
One senior Western security source said: “Iran is setting up a new terrorist infrastructure in Africa with the aim of attacking Western targets. It is all part of Tehran’s attempts to expand its terrorist operations across the globe.”
Tensions have been rising between Iran and the West for months now, ever since Donald Trump pulled the US out of an international deal intended to control Iran’s nuclear programme, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Trump said that Iran had been cheating on the deal and that it didn’t address Iran’s other malign behaviour. He then imposed a series of trade sanctions on Iran’s energy, shipping and shipbuilding, and financial sectors.
Iran responded by increasing its uranium enrichment, as confirmed by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, and demanded that the West help Iran evade the US sanctions.
The terror network was conceived after Iran signed the nuclear deal in 2015, according to intelligence officials. It is being run by the Quds Force’s Unit 400, headed by veteran officer Hamed Abdollahi, who was designated by the US in 2012 for supporting terrorist activity. The African cell is reportedly run by Ali Parhoon, another senior Iranian officer in Unit 400.
It is being estimated that there are around 300 militants, most aged 25-35, who have been recruited to the network and trained at underground Iranian-run camps in Iraq and Syria. The US has circulated a warning to its diplomatic and military missions in countries thought to contain Iranian cells, as well as missions of other Western countries, including Britain, France and Italy.
These revelations follow the shocking discovery earlier in June that Iran-backed groups had been stockpiling explosives on the outskirts of London and the Iranian downing of an unmanned US drone, which the US said was in international airspace. In response, Trump ordered more sanctions against Iran.