Pouria Zeraati. KL./

By Michael Holden

 – British counter-terrorism detectives are investigating after a journalist working for a Persian language media organisation was stabbed in London on Friday amid fears he had been targeted because of his job, police said.

Police said the man, aged in his 30s, was attacked and sustained an injury to his leg in the incident in Wimbledon, southwest London, on Friday afternoon.

Britain’s National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said the victim was prominent British-based Iranian journalist Pouria Zeraati, who hosts a show on the Persian language television news network Iran International which is critical of Iran‘s government.

Police said his injuries were not believed to be life-threatening and he was in a stable condition.

“This cowardly attack on Pouria is deeply shocking, and our thoughts are with him, his family and all of his colleagues at Iran International,” Michelle Stanistreet, the NUJ general secretary said in a statement.

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In January, Britain imposed sanctions on Iranian officials it said were involved in threats to kill journalists on British soil.

Those officials were members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Unit 840, which an investigation by ITV news in Britain said was involved in plots to assassinate two television presenters from Iran International in the UK.

“While we are keeping an open mind, given the occupation of the victim and our publicised concerns about the threat to employees of that organisation, the investigation is being led by the Counter Terrorism Command,” Commander Dominic Murphy, the head of that unit, said.

“I must stress that, at this early stage of our investigation, we do not know the reason why this victim was attacked and there could be a number of explanations for this.”

There was no immediate response from Iranian officials to the report.

British police and security officials have increasingly warned about Iran‘s growing use of criminal proxies to carry out attacks abroad.

They say there have been more than 15 direct threats to kill or kidnap dissidents or political opponents which were linked to the Iranian state apparatus over the last two years.

In December, an Austrian man was convicted of collecting information that could be used in a terrorist attack after he was accused of carrying out “hostile reconnaissance” on Iran International’s London headquarters.

“It is too early to know whether this violent assault is connected to the escalating intimidation and harassment by Iran, including the plot to assassinate journalists Fardad Farahzad and Sima Sabet in 2022,” Stanistreet said.

“However, this brutal stabbing will inevitably raise fears amongst the many journalists targeted at Iran International and the BBC Persian Service that they are not safe at home or going about their work.”

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(Reporting by Michael Holden)

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