Hosting The Eurovision Song Contest was a really big deal for Azerbaijan, so foiling an alleged terrorist plot to attack it was a pretty big deal too, which the country kept secret for weeks. As The Associated Press reports, the contest wrapped up Sunday without incident, but the alleged terrorists' plans included "an assassination attempt on President Ilham Aliyev in April." The fact that we haven't heard a word about them until now speaks to the Azerbaijani security forces' ability to manage information. The National Security Ministry didn't give the dates of its attacks, but since it foiled the April assassination attempt as well as the Eurovision plot this month, we can assume the operation has been going on for weeks.
The planned attacks on the contest, described in a statement from the ministry, sound pretty gruesome, per Agence France-Presse: "The plotters 'obtained Eurovision tickets with the aim of (committing) a terrorist act at the Baku Crystal Hall' where the pop competition was held, [the statement] said. They intended to target the luxury Hilton and Marriott hotels in the mainly Muslim state's capital Baku by blowing up cars packed with explosives, according to the statement." Police arrested 40 people in the alleged plot and seized "13 assault rifles, one machine gun, 12 handguns, three rifles, 3,400 rounds of bullets, 62 hand grenades, and several kilograms of explosives," the Associated Press reported. One suspected plotter and one agent were killed in the raids, AP notes. When you think about the magnitude of an attack on a contest with 100 million worldwide viewers, the stakes of the operation are pretty breathtaking.