Federal authorities are investigating whether a man arrested with a loaded assault rifle outside the Brooklyn home of an outspoken Iranian dissident was part of a plot to target or kill her, two law enforcement officials said.
Police arrested a Yonkers man — Khalid Mehdiyev — on Thursday with an AK-47-style weapon and 66 rounds of ammunition near the home of Masih Alinejad.
Alinejad is a well-known Iranian writer and dissident who last year was the alleged target of a kidnapping plot by Iranian agents, the FBI said. Iran has denied wrongdoing, calling the past kidnapping allegations “baseless.”
The FBI and NYPD are now looking into why Mehdiyev, 23, was seen near her home last week. Investigators said he had been seen walking around Ella’s Alinejad’s property several days last week, and at least once attempted to one her front door. She was not home at the time.
“Shocked to learn that an assassin with a loaded AK47 came my home in Brooklyn,” she tweeted Sunday. “Last year, the Islamic Republic, tried to kidnap me, now they want to kill me. I’m grateful to federal agents but the Administration must do more to protect US citizens.”
According to a complaint filed late Friday by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, Mehdiyev allegedly admitted the assault weapon was his and then asked for a lawyer, after first claiming he had traveled from Yonkers to Brooklyn in search of an apartment.
The Subaru used by Mehdiyev had Illinois plates, and had been issued a parking ticket near the Brooklyn residence the week before, court documents said.
Mehdiyev was pulled over around 3 pm by the NYPD at the corner of Dorchester Road and Rugby Road after going through a stop sign, an NYPD spokesman said.
He was allegedly driving with a suspended license and police said they later found a loaded AK-47 in the back seat. Prosecutors said serial numbers on the weapon had been defaced.
Mehdiyev is charged with a federal weapons count. The FBI and NYPD are looking into whether he was surveilling Alinejad’s home and whether he was acting alone.
An Iranian intelligence officer and three members of an Iranian intelligence network have been charged in Manhattan with plotting to lure a US resident and human rights activist from New York City to Iran. NBC New York’s Jonathan Dienst reports.
In July 2021, the FBI said it had uncovered an Iranian kidnapping plot to target Alinejad – allegedly to take her from her home, transport her to South America and then fly her back to Iran. Alinajed was moved to safe houses during the investigation for her protection of her, officials said at the time.
Alinejad has a huge following on social media given her outspoken criticism of the Iranian regime – especially on the issue of women’s rights.
An FBI spokeswoman confirmed Mehdiyev’s arrest but referred questions to an SDNY spokesman, who late Saturday offered no additional comment beyond the details included in the criminal complaint.
Attempts to reach Mehdiyev’s attorney were not immediately successful.