Iran claims to have arrested the head of a US-based “terrorist group” accused of bombing a mosque in 2008 that killed 14 people and injured more than 200 others in the southern city of Shiraz.
The “Jamshid Sharmahd, which led armed and sabotage operations in Iran, is now in the powerful hands” of Iranian security forces, state television said in a report on Saturday, citing a statement from the intelligence ministry.
The statement did not specify where or when the leader of the opposition royalist group known as the Assembly of the Kingdom of Iran, known in Farsi as Anjoman-e Padeshahi-e Iran, or Tondar (Farsi for thunder), was arrested.
The group seeks to restore the Iranian monarchy, which ended when the fatally ill Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi fled the country in 1979 just before his Islamic revolution. The founder of the group died in the mid-2000s.
It is still unclear how the US-based accused was arrested.
Tonder “plans large operations”
Iranian state television broadcast a report on Sharmahd’s arrest, linking it to the April 12, 2008 attack on the Hosseynieh Seyed al-Shohada mosque in Shiraz.
Iran hanged three men convicted of the 2009 bombing, claiming they had ties to the monarchist group.
Iran hanged two other convicted members of the group in 2010, 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 Iran’s founder. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 2010.
Although eclipsed by other opposition groups in exile, Iran is said to have repeatedly referred to the Assembly of the Kingdom of Iran when negotiating the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw Tehran limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
A statement attributed to Tondar claimed responsibility for the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist in 2010 by a remote-controlled bomb, although he later said he was not responsible.
Israel has long been suspected of a spate of assassinations targeting scientists amid concerns over Iran’s nuclear program, which the West fears could be used to develop a nuclear bomb. Iran has long maintained its program for peaceful purposes.
Sharmahd’s arrest came amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington over the collapse of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, from which US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018.
In January, a US drone attack killed a senior Iranian general in Baghdad. Iran responded by launching a ballistic missile attack on US soldiers in Iraq that injured dozens.