The group, known as the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, has been declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. They have been accused of killing American servicemen and contractors in the 1970s and supporting the hostile takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran before breaking with the Iranian mullahs in 1980.
Five Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed since 2007 often by motorcycle riding assailants attaching small magnetic bombs to the exterior of the victims’ cars.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to NBC, said the Obama administration is aware of the assassination campaign but has no direct involvement.
“The relation is very intricate and close,” said Mohammad Javad Larijani, a senior aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, speaking of the MEK and Israel. “They (Israelis) are paying … the Mujahedin. Some of their (MEK) agents … (are) providing Israel with information. And they recruit and also manage logistical support.”
In one case, he said, Mossad agents constructed a replica of an Iranian nuclear scientist’s home so that the assassins could learn the layout prior to the attack.
The Iranian government learned of the attacks and the links between Israel and MEK when they captured and interrogated one of the assassins after a failed attack in late 2010 and the materials found on him, Larijani said.
The MEK points to a statement calling the allegations “absolutely false.”
There are also unconfirmed reports in the Israeli press that Israel and the MEK were involved in a Nov. 12 explosion that destroyed the Iranian missile research and development site at Bin Kaneh, 30 miles outside Tehran. Among those killed was Maj. Gen. Hassan Moghaddam, director of missile development for the Revolutionary Guard, and a dozen other researchers.
Unlike the assassinations, Iran claims the missile site explosion was an accident; the MEK denied any involvement.
In 1997, the State Department designated MEK as a terrorist group. An unclassified 40-page summary of the organization’s activities going back more than 25 years was sent to Congress in 1998. The paper was written by Wendy Sherman, who was then an aide to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and is now undersecretary of state for political affairs.
The report, which was obtained by NBC News stated that: “The Mujahedin (MEK) collaborated with Ayatollah Khomeini to overthrow the former shah of Iran. As part of that struggle, they assassinated at least six American citizens, supported the takeover of the U.S. embassy, and opposed the release of the American hostages.” In each case, the paper noted, “Bombs were the Mujahedin’s weapon of choice, which they frequently employed against American targets.”
According to law enforcement officials speaking on the condition of anonymity, in 1994 the MEK made a pact with terrorist Ramzi Yousef a year after he masterminded the first attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. Yousef built an 11-pound bomb that MEK agents placed inside one of Shia Islam’s greatest shrines in Mashad, Iran, on June 20, 1994. At least 26 people, mostly women and children, were killed and 200 wounded in the attack.