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Albania cuts diplomatic ties with Iran over July cyberattack

The Biden administration said it supported the move by Albania, which is a NATO ally.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Albania cut diplomatic ties with Iran and expelled the country’s embassy staff over a major cyberattack nearly two months ago that was allegedly carried out by Tehran on Albanian government websites, the prime minister said Wednesday.

The government’s decision was formally delivered to the Iranian Embassy in Tirana in an official note, Prime Minister Edi Rama said. All embassy staff, including diplomatic and security personnel, were ordered to leave Albania within 24 hours.

On July 15, a cyberattack temporarily shut down numerous Albanian government digital services and websites.

Rama said an investigation determined that the cyberattack wasn’t carried out by individuals or independent groups, calling it a “state aggression.”

“The deep investigation put at our disposal undeniable evidence that the cyberattack against our country was orchestrated and sponsored by the Islamic Republic of Iran which had involved four groups for the attack on Albania,” Rama said in a video statement.

The Biden administration said it supported the move by Albania, which is a NATO ally.

“The United States strongly condemns Iran’s cyberattack,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement. “We join in Prime Minister Rama’s call for Iran to be held accountable for this unprecedented cyber incident.”

“The United States will take further action to hold Iran accountable for actions that threaten the security of a U.S. ally and set a troubling precedent for cyberspace,” Watson said.

A spokesperson for Iran’s Mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Albania, a NATO member since 2009, shelters about 3,000 Iranian dissidents of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq group, best known as MEK, who live at Ashraf 3 camp in Manez, which is 30 kilometers (19 miles) west of Albania’s capital, Tirana.

The MEK was founded in the 1960s to oppose the monarchy that ruled Iran and orchestrated bombings and other attacks against the government that allegedly killed American military officers and civilian contractors. The MEK has denied ever killing U.S. citizens. 

The group took part in the 1979 revolution that toppled the Shah but soon fell out with clerics and Islamists who seized power. The MEK was forced into exile, first in France, then Iraq and now Albania. Due to its alleged links to violent attacks and its ties to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, the United States designated the group a terrorist organization until 2012.