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Covid-19 Claims the Life of a Traitor Assassin

August 15, 2021
Kambiz Ghafouri
12 min read
Shapour Bakhtiar, the last prime minister of Iran under the Shah, was assassinated in Paris in August 1991
Shapour Bakhtiar, the last prime minister of Iran under the Shah, was assassinated in Paris in August 1991
The Islamic Republic operative who got close to Bakhtiar, then arranged his killing, Fereydoon Boyer-Ahmadi, died this month of Covid-19
The Islamic Republic operative who got close to Bakhtiar, then arranged his killing, Fereydoon Boyer-Ahmadi, died this month of Covid-19

On August 6, just as friends and supporters of Shapour Bakhtiar, the last prime minister of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, were preparing to take part in ceremonies marking the 30th anniversary of his assassination, Dr. Bakhtiar’s killer was taken to the ICU at Tehran’s Khatam al-Anbia Hospital.

Fereydoon Boyer-Ahmadi had all the symptoms of severe Covid-19. He later succumbed to the disease in the early hours of August 7, and was buried on August 10 in Plot 328 of Tehran’s Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery.

Boyer-Ahmadi was one of the three members of the terrorist squad who assassinated Dr. Bakhtiar on August 6, 1991. According to the testimonies of a number of people close to him, he had lived for years after the killing in the cities of Karaj, Isfahan, Qazvin and Tehran, under the alias Farhad Mahdyar.

Even as the mourners were returning home from Dr. Bakhtiar’s grave in Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris, his assassin was in Iran breathing his last.

***

Fereydoon Boyer-Ahmadi was a Trojan horse. In late summer 1991 he betrayed Shapour Bakhtiar’s trust and fatherly kindness, bringing agents of the Islamic Republic’s Intelligence Ministry to his home in the Parisian suburb of Suresnes to murder him together with his loyal secretary, Soroush Katibeh. Boyer-Ahmadi stabbed Katibeh to death with his own hands.

The plot had been years in the making. In the aftermath of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s death in 1989, and while his successor Ali Khamenei was still not feeling over-confident about his position, Iranian security officials resolved to weaken the opposition outside the country by assassinating a series of prominent figures.

Covid-19 Claims the Life of a Traitor Assassin

Shapour Bakhtiar (left) and Abdorrahman Boroumand were both assassinated in 1991 by agents of the Islamic Republic

The 1991 assassination of Shapour Bakhtiar followed that of Abdorrahman Boroumand, Bakhtiar’s friend and a leader of the National Resistance Movement of Iran, in April that year. Fereydoon Boyer-Ahmadi was key a player in both.

From Bois de Boulogne to Shariati Avenue

The three-member team that carried out the assassination on August 6, 1991 comprised Boyer-Ahmadi and two others only known by their pseudonyms: Ali Vakili-Rad, and Mohammad Azadi.

Covid-19 Claims the Life of a Traitor Assassin

From left: Mohammad Azadi, Ali Vakili-Rad and Fereydoon Boyer-Ahmadi

At 5pm on the day of the killing, Fereydoon Boyer-Ahmadi had conveyed his fellow assassins to Dr. Bakhtiar’s residence in his own BMW. French police were closely guarding Bakhtiar after a previous attempt on his life by Anis Naghash on July 18, 1980. Though that plot failed, two people – a French civilian and a police officer – had been killed in the crossfire.

Boyer-Ahmadi had made an appointment for Dr. Bakhtiar to meet Vakili-Rad and Azadi, introducing them as opponents of the Islamic Republic. Their names had been given to the French police beforehand, and officers took their passports before allowing them to enter.

The heinous murder of Dr. Bakhtiar and Katibeh then took place inside the house. In the aftermath, Boyer-Ahmadi stepped outside alone and retrieved all three passports from the police – in technical breach of the rules, as officers were supposed to hand each document back to its owner directly.

Mohammad Azadi and Ali Vakili-Rad were both wearing dark suits. By staying at arm’s length from police, the blood spots on their jackets went unnoticed. Boyer-Ahmadi was carrying his jacket on his arm to cover the injury he had inflicted on his own hand while stabbing Soroush Katibeh.

Boyer-Ahmadi then drove the criminal trio drove fast towards Bois de Boulogne, where Vakili-Rad and Azadi changed out of their bloodstained suits and struck out for Switzerland.

In the end, Azadi managed to escape back to Iran but Vakili-Rad was apprehended in Geneva. He was later sentenced to life in prison but was then granted parole by a French court in 2010. On arriving back at Tehran Airport, Vakili-Rad would be hailed a “national hero”. The welcoming committee, then-deputy foreign minister Hassan Ghashghavi and Kazem Jalali, then-chairman of the parliament’s National Security Committee, bedecked him with a garland of flowers.

Covid-19 Claims the Life of a Traitor Assassin

Convicted murderer Ali Vakili-Rad is welcomed home as a "hero"

Boyer-Ahmadi, meanwhile, first went to a rented studio at No. 36 in Rue d’Italie in Paris, then to No. 112 Rue St. Charles. From there he disappeared, resurfacing a short time later in Tehran. A source who knew Boyer-Ahmadi personally told me what happened next.

Chased From City to City by Furious Relatives

“First, he went to Bushehr. Then they gave him the management of a hotel in Isfahan,” the former contact of Boyer-Ahmadi said. “He bought a Chevrolet there and one day, when he was out driving the car, he noticed somebody had deliberately messed with the wheels so that he’d have an accident.” 

In fact, they said, a large number of Fereydoon Boyer-Ahmadi’s relatives hated him for having murdered Dr. Bakhtiar. Several were actively trying to avenge the killing. They traced him to Isfahan, but since Fereydoon was usually armed, a former acquaintance tried sabotaging the car instead.

Boyer-Ahmadi braked fast when the wheels began to shudder, and the “accident” never happened. But the incident caused such a stir in the Intelligence Ministry that officials quickly moved Fereydoon to another location.

Under the new guise of Farhad Mahdyar, he was shuttled to Karaj, then on to Qazvin, where after a short while he was appointed the head of Qazvin province’s Grain and Commercial Services Company.

When an interview with “Mahdyar” was later published along with his photograph, Boyer-Ahmadi’s family knew his true identity at once. When they began to make noise about it, he was quickly transferred to the Government Trading Corporation in Tehran and appointed its deputy director of human resources.

Three years ago I published a report about Dr. Bakhtiar’s assassins. Several people who knew him called me, and told me he was still living under the name of Farhad Mahdyar. On inspecting the documents they sent me, I realized Farhad Mahdyar and Fereydoon Boyer-Ahmadi’s ID cards bore the same picture, the same date of birth and the same father’s name. The only difference was the first and last names.

Warnings Ignored by a Trusting Leader

After Shapour Bakhtiar was assassinated, many of his close allies said they had tried to warn him about Fereydoon Boyer-Ahmadi – but the former prime minister had nonetheless made the “mistake” of trusting him.

Boyer-Ahmadi had moved to Paris in 1984, seven years before the killing. His cousin Shahbaz Zarghampour was in charge of tribal affairs with the National Resistance Movement in Paris and it was he who introduced him to Dr. Bakhtiar. But Shahbaz then grew suspicious of his own cousin’s motives. He expressed his concerns to Dr. Bakhtiar, only to be told not to judge others based on conjecture.

From 1985 to 1987, Fereydoon held no specific position in Bakhtiar’s organization. “Boyer-Ahmadi came to France in 1984,” another source close to him told me. “Reports of his corrupt lifestyle and rudeness were such that for around three years, between 1985 and 1989, Dr. Bakhtiar did not condescend to meeting him. But after quite a while, they had a discussion and decided to accept him. When the council next met, we saw that Fereydoon had been added to it.”

Jahanshah Taheri, the son a Boyer-Ahmad tribal chief and a relative of Fereydoon, was another person who cautioned Dr. Bakhtiar against associating with him. But Dr. Bakhtiar dismissed this as family rivalry – perhaps even envy. On several occasions, he tried to reconcile them in a fatherly manner.

Boyer-Ahmadi and the Assassination of Abdorrahman Boroumand

In her book The Trial of Bakhtiar’s Assassins, Pari Eskandari quotes the witness testimony of one Davoud Abdollahi, a former associate of Dr. Bakhtiar: “It was 1.30 in the afternoon on the day they assassinated Dr. Abdorrahman Boroumand. Boyer-Ahmadi called me and said that he wanted to see me.

“I said I couldn’t do it. Ten minutes later he called again, begging me, telling me it was important to him... He came by, but unlike all other times when he’d parked his car correctly, [this time] he just left it there. He was in a bad way and looked extremely worried.

“He told me to sit and invited me to have coffee with him, though he never paid the café’s tab. He told me that he wanted to tell me things. I sat. He didn’t have anything specific to say but was very ill at ease. He gave me a thousand dollars and I gave him francs. He just rambled on, and kept looking at his watch... It was that afternoon that I heard Dr. Boroumand had been murdered.”

Covid-19 Claims the Life of a Traitor Assassin

Davoud Abdollahi, an associate of Shapour Bakhtiar, saw him immediately after Boroumand's killing

Abdollahi gave the same account to the French police, who arrested Boyer-Ahmadi. A member of the National Council of Resistance told me: “Fereydoon told the police that this [the killing] was the result of tribal rivalries. He said, ‘We’re related and they’re jealous pf me. If you don’t believe me, call Dr. Bakhtiar.’

“The police called Dr. Bakhtiar and he told them, ‘These people are like my sons. They’re related. They’re jealous of each other and say things behind each other’s backs.’ And so, the police released Fereydoon.”

Years later in 1994, during the trial of the three Iranians accused of Dr. Bakhtiar’s killing, Abdollahi told the court that he, too, had warned Dr. Bakhtiar about Boyer-Ahmadi’s obvious hand in Boroumand’s death. “I called Dr. Bakhtiar,” he said. “I told him, ‘Keep a close eye on Fereydoon. He’s a traitor. He is an agent’… No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t convince him. He liked Boyer-Ahmadi.”

Because of his fatherly feelings toward Boyer-Ahmadi, Dr. Bakhtiar never took accusations against him seriously, nor did he consider that the association might put his own life in danger. Nor, in fact, did many of the Iranian opposition members: “We were suspicious of Fereydoon,” one recalls, “but given the security cordon around Dr. Bakhtiar, we never imagined he would do such a thing. We thought he was an informant being paid a few hundred dollars to gather information.”

The Intelligence Ministry’s Security Trap

Some people who were once close to Dr. Bakhtiar are sure Fereydoon Boyer-Ahmadi was sent to Paris as an assassin from the very beginning. But others believe his dealings with Iran’s Intelligence Ministry only started when his wife was arrested in Iran.

“Fereydoon drank a lot,” an acquaintance of Boyer-Ahmadi in Paris told me. “When he was drunk, he’d curse his wife. She’d been arrested in Iran because of the money Fereydoon had sent her. But she was released in under a month, and they gave her the money back.

“They also gave her a passport so that she could go to Turkey and meet with Fereydoon. One night I asked Fereydoon why he cursed his wife. ‘She’s thrown me into a fire I can’t escape from’, he said. Of course, when he went back to Iran, he divorced that woman and married a second time.”

As Pari Eskandari records it, Faramarz Dadras, who was in charge of security for the National Council of Resistance under Shapour Bakhtiar, told the court in 1994: “I learned that Boyer-Ahmadi had met with the agents of the Islamic Republic at Istanbul’s Marmara Hotel. And I informed Dr. Bakhtiar.”

Money and a Profligate Lifestyle in Paris

In the same court case, Davoud Abdollahi testified that every month, Boyer-Ahmadi would come to him to exchange one thousand dollars for the equivalent in French francs. These suspicious sums were confirmed by Shohreh Azimi, Fereydoon’s former girlfriend in Paris. According to Pari Eskandari, Azimi testified at the trial: “His pocket was always filled with dollars.” And according to Davoud Abdollahi, Boyer-Ahmadi’s spendthrift lifestyle continued even when the National Council of Resistance had no money to pay its members’ salaries.

Shohreh Azami was not Boyer-Ahmadi’s only girlfriend. Maryse Michel, a resident of Reims, had also dated Fereydoon since 1984 – and had borne him a daughter. Michel told the court that she felt Boyer-Ahmadi had changed after coming back from Istanbul: “In 1989, while I was pregnant, Fereydoon went to Istanbul and stayed there for close to three months. He was very nervous when he got back.”

Antoine Spear, a lawyer working with the NGO SOS Terrorisme, said in his testimony: “After he became an agent [for the Islamic Republic], Boyer-Ahmadi visited Maryse Michel less often. He took many lovers. He had an Iranian passport. He had a lot of money. He had dollars and no time. The mullahs’ regime had bought him.”

To cap it off, witnesses told the court that Boyer-Ahmadi had taken Vakili-Rad and Azadi to a well-known brothel in Paris in the days before Dr. Bakhtiar’s assassination.

A Life Marked by Paranoia

For 30 years after returning to Iran, contacts said, Fereydoon Boyer-Ahmadi lived in fear. He always carried a Colt pistol strapped to his waist. Whether he brought it with him to the hospital on August 7 is anyone’s guess. The legacy he left behind was one of betrayal, sleaze and impunity, for a crime that still scars the collective Iranian psyche.

Covid-19 Claims the Life of a Traitor Assassin

The burial record for Ferydoon Boyer-Ahmadi, still under the name Farhad Mahdyar, at Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery

“I am so sorry!” Roya Boroumand, the daughter of Abdolrahman Boroumand and a human rights activist, said to IranWire of Boyer-Ahmadi’s death. “This isn’t the first time a criminal has been praised and rewarded. Anis Naghash [Dr. Bakhtiar’s first, failed would-be assassin] was given properties and a lucrative business in Iran. I would have preferred for him to stay alive, go on trial in a just court, reveal his knowledge about the assassinations and serve his prison sentence.”

 

Related Coverage:

Holy Terror: Iran's Criminal Record from Germany to Ethiopia

Diplomat Assassins: Who Does Iran Kill Abroad and Why?

Abductions and Murder Through Embassies: The Islamic Republic's Terrorism Abroad

Khamenei’s Systematic Terrorism Abroad

Iran Mourns Death of Lebanese Terrorist

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Unprecedented Remarks by an Iranian Diplomat about Terrorist “Rogue” Elements in Europe

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Decoding Iran’s Politics: Iranian Embassies and Terrorism Allegations

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