Albania cuts diplomatic ties with Iran over July cyberattack

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania cut diplomatic ties with Iran and expelled the country's embassy staff over a major cyberattack nearly two months ago that was allegedly carried out by Tehran on Albanian government websites, the prime minister said Wednesday.

The government's decision was formally delivered to the Iranian Embassy in Tirana in an official note, Prime Minister Edi Rama said. All embassy staff, including diplomatic and security personnel, were ordered to leave Albania within 24 hours.

On July 15, a cyberattack temporarily shut down numerous Albanian government digital services and websites.

Rama said an investigation determined that the cyberattack wasn't carried out by individuals or independent groups, calling it a “state aggression.”

“The deep investigation put at our disposal undeniable evidence that the cyberattack against our country was orchestrated and sponsored by the Islamic Republic of Iran which had involved four groups for the attack on Albania,” Rama said in a video statement.

The Biden administration said it supported the move by Albania, which is a NATO ally.

“The United States strongly condemns Iran’s cyberattack,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement. “We join in Prime Minister Rama’s call for Iran to be held accountable for this unprecedented cyber incident.”

“The United States will take further action to hold Iran accountable for actions that threaten the security of a U.S. ally and set a troubling precedent for cyberspace,” Watson said.

Albania, a NATO member since 2009, shelters about 3,000 Iranian dissidents of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq group, best known as MEK, who live at Ashraf 3 camp in Manez, which is 30 kilometers (19 miles) west of Albania’s capital, Tirana.

The Associated Press