Iran arrests 40 over ‘terrorist’ plots

TEHRAN (TIP): Iran has arrested 40 members of a “terrorist group” who plotted to attack military targets in the southeast of the country, the interior minister said on July 21.

Iran’s southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan, has been the scene of armed clashes in recent weeks between Iranian forces and Sunni militants.

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli, in statements carried by the official IRNA news agency, did not identify those detained.

He said the suspects had built a tunnel 40 metres (132 feet) long and 20 metres deep which they had planned to use to carry out attacks.

The governor of the city of Khash in Sistan-Baluchistan said those arrested had “intended to carry out terrorist and sabotage acts” against important military and security centres.

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Mohammad Akbar Sharekzehi said the suspects had “advanced military equipment” and were arrested by security forces in a nearby house before they could carry out “their evil plan”. The governor gave no further details.

On July 6, Iranian media reported that four Iranian border guards were killed in a clash with armed rebels in Sistan-Baluchistan province without elaborating.

In June, Iranian state television said that a police officer and five “terrorists” said to be members of the Jaish al-Adl jihadist group were also killed in the Khash region.

The same month, Iran’s intelligence ministry said it had thwarted a major jihadist plot to carry out bomb attacks in the capital Tehran and other provinces and arrested suspects, without elaborating.

Jaish al-Adl is thought to be behind a number of attacks in Sistan-Baluchistan in recent years, and Tehran accuses it of ties to Pakistan-based Al-Qaeda cells.

Ninety percent of Iran’s population is Shiite, but the country has significant Sunni populations in its restive border regions, notably Kurdistan in the northeast, Sistan-Baluchistan and Khuzestan in the southwest.

In Sistan-Baluchistan, security forces also clash frequently with drug traffickers.

The province lies on a major transit route for opium and heroin being smuggled from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

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