Azerbaijan: Eurovision Terrorist Attack Foiled, Government Says
When music talents battled for the title of Europe’s best pop act in Baku at the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest last week, little did they know that there was a parallel battle going on backstage between alleged Wahhabi terrorists and Azerbaijan's security forces.
Azerbaijani officials today claimed that they busted an Islamist terror group and took out its leader just as they plotted to bomb the music show, assassinate President Ilham Aliyev, and blow up a couple of mosques and five-star hotels into the bargain.
As with previous reported cases of planned terror attacks, Azerbaijani’s ever-alert security officials are always a step ahead of the villains, but prefer not to share many details. Forty members of the group, allegedly based in Russia's North Caucasus, were arrested, while their leader, a certain Vugar Padarov, was killed in a shootout, the government claims.
Eurovision brought to Azerbaijan steady and ongoing headwinds of criticism over its human rights record, and, from neighboring Iran, over the contest's allegedly gay themes. A law-enforcement official told EurasiaNet.org that concerns over possible trouble from local Islamists angry about Eurovision prompted the government to limit the distribution of tickets to Azerbaijanis.
Iran is frequently described as the chief cheerleader for such critics, but, this time, unlike in the past, Baku's finger of blame was not aimed at Tehran. A senior Iranian cleric on May 29 was not allowed into Azerbaijan, but the post-Eurovision feuding has not gone beyond that. At least for now.