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Azerbaijan evacuates embassy staff from Iran after security chief killed

Baku says 'act of terrorism' was caused by Iran's failure to improve security measures at Tehran embassy
A policeman guards the entrance of the Azerbaijan embassy in Tehran following a shooting, on 27 January 2023 (AFP)

A gunman shot dead a security guard and wounded two other people at Azerbaijan's embassy in Iran on Friday, in an attack Baku branded an "act of terrorism".

"The attacker broke through the guard post, killing the head of security with a Kalashnikov assault rifle," Azerbaijan's foreign ministry said.

The Azeri foreign ministry said the attack was a result of Tehran ignoring concerns and calls for improved security measures at the embassy. 

"Unfortunately, the latest bloody terrorist act demonstrates the serious consequences of the failure to give the necessary attention to our constant appeals in this regard," the foreign ministry said.

Azerbaijani foreign ministry spokesman Aykhan Hajizada said the embassy staff "are being evacuated from Iran.

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"All responsibility for the attack lies with Iran," said Hajizada, adding that a recent anti-Azerbaijan campaign in the Iranian media had "encouraged the attack". 

Baku has also summoned the Iranian ambassador to Azerbaijan.

Tehran's police chief, General Hossein Rahimi, said the attacker has been arrested and an investigation had been launched.

Rahimi said the attacker was motivated by "personal problems" and was married to an Azeri woman.

"According to the preliminary investigation, these are personal motives," Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanani, said.

Iranian authorities have condemned the incident, but played down talk of any political motive for the attack.

Iran is home to millions of Turkic-speaking, ethnic Azeris, and it has long accused Baku of fomenting separatist sentiments in its territory.

Relations between the two countries have traditionally been sour, with the former Soviet republic being a close ally of Turkey, Iran's historical rival.

The attack comes amid increased tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran, after Baku appointed its first ever ambassador to Israel this month.

Tehran also fears that Azeri territory could be used for a possible offensive against Iran by Israel, a major supplier of arms to Baku.

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