Iran says it arrested head of US-based ‘terror group’

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Tehran (AFP)

Iran said on Saturday it had arrested the head of a US-based “terror group” accused of being behind a deadly 2008 bombing in the southern city of Shiraz and of planning other attacks.

“Jamshid Sharmahd, who was leading armed and sabotage operations in Iran, is now in the powerful hands” of Iranian security forces, state television said, citing a statement from the Intelligence Ministry.

He did not specify where or when the alleged leader of the royalist opposition group known as the Assembly of the Kingdom of Iran, or Tondar (Farsi for thunder), was detained.

Iran has criticized its main enemy, the United States, for welcoming Sharmahd and “supporting known terrorists who have claimed responsibility for several terrorist acts inside” the country.

“This regime must answer for its support for this terrorist group and other groups and criminals who orchestrate armed, sabotage and terrorist operations against the Iranian people from America and shed Iranian blood,” a statement said. of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Intelligence Ministry said Sharmahd orchestrated the April 12, 2008 bombing of a crowded Shiraz mosque that killed 14 people and injured 215.

A spokesperson for the US State Department said that “the Iranian regime has a long history of detaining Iranians and foreign nationals on false charges.”

“We urge Iran to be fully transparent and to respect all international legal standards. ”

– Attack on the mosque –

Iran hanged three men convicted of the 2009 bombing, claiming they had ties to the monarchist group.

The three men said they had received orders from a US-backed “CIA agent” identified at the time only as “Jamshid” to attempt to assassinate a senior official in Iran, he said. reported the Fars news agency at the time.

They were Mohsen Eslamian and Ali Asghar Pashtar, 21, both university students, and Rouzbeh Yahyazadeh, 32.

The three were found guilty of being “mohareb” (enemies of God) and “corruption on earth” by a revolutionary court in Tehran.

Iran hanged in 2010 two other convicted members of the group, who had “confessed to obtaining explosives and planning to assassinate those responsible”.

The statement released on Saturday said Tondar had planned several other “major operations” which failed.

He said Tondar planned to blow up a roadblock in Shiraz, use “cyanide bombs” at a Tehran book fair and plant an explosive device at the mausoleum of the founder of the Islamic Republic, fire Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Iran’s intelligence ministry later released a photo of a gray-haired man with a blindfold who he said was Sharmahd. He did not say where or when the photo was taken.

– ‘Complicated operation’ –

It is not known how Iran arrested Sharmahd, who was generally based in the United States, in what his intelligence ministry called a “complicated operation.”

According to the association’s website, Sharmahd was born in Tehran in 1955 and raised in an Iranian-German family before moving to the United States in 2003, where he began expressing anti-Islam and anti-republic statements. Islamic.

Tondar rejects the Iranian political system and campaigns to overthrow the Islamic republic and restore a monarchy similar to that of Cyrus the Great.

Iran announced the arrest of a former opposition figure under equally mysterious circumstances in October last year.

He said Ruhollah Zam was arrested as part of a “sophisticated and professional operation”.

Zam, described by Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a “counterrevolutionary” who was “led by French intelligence services”, was sentenced to death in June for “corruption on earth”.

Zam, who is believed to have lived in exile in Paris, ran a channel on the Telegram messaging app called Amadnews and was accused of sparking unrest during anti-government protests in 2017-18.

The Islamic Republic also captured the leader of a Sunni Muslim rebel group in a dramatic operation in 2010 and executed him the same year, boasting of his ability to capture conflicting figures.

Abdolmalek Rigi was arrested while on a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan, when Iranian fighter jets forced the plane he was traveling on to land in Iran.

The Jundallah (Soldiers of God) rebel group had led a deadly insurgency in Iran’s southeastern Shiite province of Sistan and Baluchistan for a decade before being severely weakened by Rigi’s execution.

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