Dog order

Iranian diplomats set to leave Albania after deportation order

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Iranian embassy staff in the Albanian capital have been working through the night after being given 24 hours to leave the country following a major cyberattack the Albanian government blames on Iran.

This is the first known case of a country cutting diplomatic ties following a cyberattack.

Traffic inside the Iranian embassy in Tirana continued uninterrupted from Wednesday to Thursday. An empty barrel was seen taken into the compound and later a fire broke out there, apparently burning documents. A diplomatic car drove in and out, while an Albanian policeman communicated with the embassy before two agents entered and exited after a few minutes.

Staff have until noon (1000 GMT) Thursday to leave Albania.

On July 15, a cyberattack temporarily shut down many Albanian government digital services and websites. Prime Minister Edi Rama said on Wednesday there was “undeniable evidence” that the Iranian government was behind the attack.

The United States backed NATO member Albania’s move and vowed unspecified retaliation against Iran for what it called “a troubling precedent for cyberspace.”

Iran condemned the expulsion of the diplomats, calling the action thoughtless and short-sighted, according to Iranian state television.

In a statement, Iran’s Foreign Ministry denied that Tehran was behind any cyberattacks on Albanian government websites, adding that it is Iran that is the target of such attacks on its critical infrastructure.

Ties between Iran and Albania have been strained since 2014, when Albania was home to some 3,000 members of the Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or MEK, who left Iraq.

In July, the MEK had planned to hold the Free Iran World Summit in Manez, west of Tirana, with US lawmakers among the guests. The meeting was canceled “for security reasons and due to terrorist threats and conspiracies”.

In two separate cases in 2020 and 2018, Tirana expelled four Iranian diplomats for “threatening national security”.

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