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Deadly shooting at Azerbaijan's embassy in Iran kills 1

The Azerbaijani government blamed “anti-Azerbaijan sentiment in Iran” for the shooting at its embassy and is evacuating its staff, but Iranian police said the incident was due to a family dispute.
A policeman guards the entrance of the Azerbaijan embassy in Tehran on January 27, 2023, following an attack. - Azerbaijan on January 27 said it was evacuating staff from its embassy in Tehran, blaming Iran for a "terrorist" attack in which the head of security was killed and two guards wounded. (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

A shooting at the embassy of Azerbaijan in Tehran Friday left one killed and two injured. Baku called it a terrorist attack and announced plans to evacuate its diplomats and personnel from the embassy. 

What happened: Iranian police said a lone gunman entered the embassy with two children. He then shot and killed one person and injured two others. The attacker was arrested and told police that he was motivated by a family dispute, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. 

However, Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry said an armed gunman broke through security. “The attacker broke through the guard post, killing the head of security with a Kalashnikov assault rifle,” the statement read.

Reactions: The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry criticized Iranian authorities for failing to prevent what it called a terrorist attack, saying in a statement, “As the country where the embassy is located, the Iranian side had to fulfill its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to ensure the security of the embassy and safety of its employees.”

The ministry noted previous threats to the embassy, saying the issue “was constantly raised before Iran to take measures to prevent such cases.” 

Though Iranian police said the shooter was motivated by a personal issue, Azerbaijan claimed it was the result of anti-Azerbaijan sentiment in Iran, saying, “We are of the opinion that the recent anti-Azerbaijani campaign against our country in Iran led to such attack against our diplomatic mission.”

The ministry added that the embassy’s head of security was killed in the attack and that there are plans to evacuate embassy personnel and their families. 

The Iranian Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the attack. Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani added that the matter is under investigation and warned the press to avoid spreading “unreliable news and speculation” in relation to the incident, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency. 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the shooting a “treacherous attack,” according to Turkey’s official Anadolu Agency. 

Why it matters: The incident is already causing tension in the already tense relationship between Iran and Azerbaijan. Most recently, Iran has been concerned that Azerbaijan may cut the Iranian border connection to Armenia by controlling part of Armenia’s Syunik province. Iran held military drills on its border with Azerbaijan late last year in response, Fehim Tasketin wrote for Al-Monitor in November. 

Iran remained neutral in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia in 2020, but the Islamic Republic has traditionally enjoyed warmer relations with the latter. Azerbaijan won the war over the disputed territory, though the conflict remains unresolved. 

Know more: The Islamic Republic and its allies have attacked embassies several times. In 1979, Iranian government supporters violently took control of the US Embassy in Tehran. In 1992, an Iran-backed organization attacked the Israeli Embassy in Argentina. In late 2019 and early 2020, supporters of the Iran-backed Kitaib Hezbollah attacked the US Embassy in Baghdad. 

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