Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK or MKO)
The Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK or MKO) philosophy mixes Marxism and Islam. Formed in the 1960s, the organization was expelled from Iran after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, its primary support came from the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. MEK history is studded with anti-Western attacks as well as terrorist attacks on the interests of the clerical regime in Iran and abroad. The MEK now advocates a secular Iranian regime.
The MEK also operates as, or is known as: The National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA, the militant wing of the MEK), the People's Mujahidin of Iran (PMOI), National Council of Resistance (NCR), Muslim Iranian Student's Society (front organization used to garner financial support).
Organization activities. The MEK worldwide campaign against the Iranian government stresses propaganda and occasionally uses terrorist violence. During the 1970s the MEK killed several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians working on defense projects in Tehran. It supported the takeover in 1979 of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. In 1981 the MEK planted bombs in the head office of the Islamic Republic Party and the Premier's office, killing some 70 high-ranking Iranian officials, including Chief Justice Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, President Mohammad-Ali Rajaei, and Premier Mohammad-Javad Bahonar. In 1991, it assisted the government of Iraq in suppressing the Shia and Kurdish uprisings in northern and southern Iraq. Until Operation Iraqi Freedom the MEK continued to perform internal security services for Saddam Hussein's government. In April 1992, MEK conducted attacks on Iranian embassies in 13 different countries, demonstrating the group's ability to mount large-scale operations overseas. In recent years the MEK has targeted key military officers and assassinated the deputy chief of the Armed Forces General Staff in April 1999. In April 2000, the MEK attempted to assassinate the commander of the Nasr Headquarters—then the interagency board responsible for coordinating policies on Iraq.
The normal pace of MEK anti-Iranian operations increased during Operation Great Bahman in February 2000, when the group launched a dozen attacks against Iran. In 2000 and 2001, the MEK was involved regularly in mortar attacks and hit-and-run raids on Iranian military and law enforcement units and government buildings near the Iran-Iraq border. Since the end of the Iran-Iraq War the tactics along the border have garnered few military gains and have become commonplace. Prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, MEK insurgent activities in Tehran constituted the biggest security concern for the Iranian leadership. In February 2000, for example, the MEK attacked the leadership complex in Tehran that houses the offices of the supreme leader and president.
Prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, several thousand MEK fighters were located on bases scattered throughout Iraq and armed with tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and artillery. The MEK also had an overseas support structure. Most of the fighters were organized in the MEK's National Liberation Army (NLA). Following Operation Iraqi Freedom and the removal of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, the fate of the MEK remains undetermined.
In the 1980s the MEK's leaders were forced by Iranian security forces to flee to France. After resettling in Iraq in 1987, the group conducted internal security operations in support of Saddam Hussein's regime. In the mid-1980s the group did not mount terrorist operations in Iran at a level similar to its activities in the 1970s, but by the 1990s the MEK had claimed credit for an increasing number of operations in Iran. Beyond support from the former Iraqi regime, the MEK used front organizations to solicit contributions from expatriate Iranian communities.
█ FURTHER READING:
Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook, 2002. < http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/ > (April 16, 2003).
Taylor, Francis X. U.S. Department of State. Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001. Annual Report: On the Record Briefing. May 21, 2002 < http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/rm/10367.htm > (April 17,2003).
U.S. Department of State. Annual reports. < http://www.state.gov/www/global/terrorism/annual_reports.html > (April 16, 2003).