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Albania cuts ties with Iran over alleged cyberattack

US voices support for Albania, which hosts Iranian opposition group, as country orders expulsion of Iranian diplomats
Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama (L) arrives for the NATO summit at the Ifema congress centre in Madrid, on June 29, 2022 (AFP)
Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama (L) arrives for the Nato summit at Madrid's Ifema congress centre on 29 June 2022 (AFP)

Albania has severed ties with Iran after a probe concluded Tehran carried out a cyberattack on the country on 15 July.

Prime Minister Edi Rama said the attack had targeted his country in an attempt to "paralyse public services and hack data and electronic communications from the government systems".

"The Council of Ministers has decided on the severance of diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran with immediate effect," Rama said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The said attack failed its purpose. Damages may be considered minimal compared to the goals of the aggressor. All systems came back fully operational and there was no irreversible wiping of data."

This statement followed the announcement that Iranian diplomats and support staff had 24 hours to leave the country.

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Albania has long had a tense relationship with Iran, primarily stemming from Albania's hosting of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) organisation on its territory.

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The MEK, which has been based in Albania since 2013, is regarded as a terrorist organisation in Iran and has long sought the overthrow of the Islamic Republic.

Shortly after Rama's announcement, the US said it stood with Albania in opposition to Iran's actions.

"The United States strongly condemns Iran's cyberattack against our Nato ally, Albania," National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement. 

"The United States will take further action to hold Iran accountable for actions that threaten the security of a US ally and set a troubling precedent for cyberspace."

Though there has been no official response from Iran, the Fars News Agency - a news outlet close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - reported on the news, referring to Albania's support for the "hypocrites" of the MEK.

The MEK, which is now part of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), originally supported the 1979 revolution that brought the Islamic Republic to power.

Initially espousing an ideology that attempted to combine Marxist and Islamic tenets, the group turned against the new administration and carried out numerous attacks in the country.

Designated a terrorist organisation by the US in 1997, it was removed from the terror list in 2012 and now counts numerous American politicians - mainly those opposed to Iran - among its supporters.

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