The leader of an Iranian Kurdish opposition party and two other Kurdish nationalists were killed and an Iranian diplomat was seriously wounded in what police said Friday appears to have been a political attack.
The three men were found dead late Thursday evening in a Vienna apartment shortly after neighbors reported hearing gunshots. Police said each man was shot twice in the head and there were signs of a struggle.There were no claims of responsibility for the killings.
Police said the victims may have known their killers because the door to the apartment was not damaged or broken down.
The dead were identified as Iran's No. 1 Kurdish opposition figure, Abdel Rahman Ghassemlou, secretary general of the Kurdish National Party of Iran, and his deputy Abdullah Ghaderi-Azar, 37, considered the Kurdish opposition leader in France. The third man was identified as an naturalized Austrian citizen, Fadeh Mala Mahmoud Rasoul, a Kurdish political researcher.
Police said a fourth man, identified by the Iranian Embassy in Vienna as Iranian diplomat Mohammad Djafari Sahrarudi, was seriously wounded in the attack.
Austrian radio ORF reported that a source in the Iranian Embassy said the three Kurdish nationalists were holding a secret meeting with the Iranian diplomat to discuss whether to give Ghassemlou safe conduct to visit Iran for high-level discussions on the Kurdish problem.
The meeting, held in Austria as a neutral site, had been postponed several times for security reasons, the radio quoted the source as saying.
Ghassemlou, 59, who was sentenced to death in Iran for advocating an autonomous Kurdish nation, and Ghaderi-Azar were considered leading critics of Iran's policy of persecution against the Kurdish minority. But the two men also were known as proponents of political negotiations rather than violence.
The Iranian embassy in Vienna issued a written statement Friday night which "strongly condemned all terrorist activities," blamed "enemies of Iran" for the killings, and said it had sent a delegation to meet with Kurdish leaders in Vienna to discuss "peaceful solutions."
It also confirmed there had been previous meetings between Ghassemlou and the Iranian government.
Austrian authorities had been warned by Iran that "groups, which repeatedly committed acts of terrorism in Iran, will also stop at nothing in Austria," the statement said.