TEHRAN — Iran on Saturday stated it had detained an Iranian-American chief of a little-known, California-based opposition group for allegedly planning a 2008 assault on a mosque that killed 14 individuals and wounded over 200 others.
Iran’s Intelligence Ministry additionally asserted that the detained man, Jamshid Sharmahd of the Kingdom Meeting of Iran, deliberate extra assaults across the Islamic Republic amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the US.
Mr. Sharmahd’s reported arrest comes as relations between the U.S. and Iran stay infected within the wake of President Donald Trump’s 2018 determination to withdraw America from the 2015 multinational nuclear deal. In January, a U.S. drone strike killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad. Iran responded by launching a ballistic missile attack on U.S. soldiers in Iraq that injured dozens.
Iran accused Mr. Sharmahd, 65, of working Tondar, or “Thunder” in Farsi, a militant wing of the Kingdom Meeting of Iran. The circumstances of his seize are unclear; the Intelligence Ministry known as it a “complicated operation,” with out elaborating. It revealed a purported image of Mr. Sharmahd, blindfolded, on its web site.
Iran’s intelligence minister, Mahmoud Alavi, later appeared on state TV, saying Mr. Sharmahd had been arrested in Iran.
Requests for remark despatched by electronic mail to the Kingdom Meeting of Iran, based mostly in Glendora, Calif., weren’t instantly answered and a phone quantity for the group not labored.
In line with a recent report published by the U.S. State Department, Mr. Sharmahd had been focused for assassination. The U.S. State Division didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
Iranian state tv broadcast a report on Mr. Sharmahd’s arrest, linking him to the 2008 bombing of the Shohada mosque in Shiraz. It additionally stated his group was additionally behind a 2010 bombing at Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s mausoleum in Tehran that wounded a number of individuals.
The state TV report additionally alleged, with out offering proof, that Tondar plotted assaults on a dam and deliberate to make use of cyanide bombs at Tehran’s annual guide truthful.
State TV aired footage of Mr. Sharmahd interspersed with footage from the second of the 2008 explosion on the Shiraz mosque. Mr. Sharmahd’s face appeared swollen and the type of the footage resembled that utilized in one of many more than 350 coerced confessions that a rights group says the broadcaster has aired over the past decade.
The Intelligence Ministry has not stated what fees Mr. Sharmahd will face. Prisoners earlier accused in the identical assault had been sentenced to loss of life and executed.
The Kingdom Meeting of Iran, identified in Farsi as Anjoman-e Padeshahi-e Iran, and Tondar search to revive Iran’s monarchy, which ended when the fatally sick Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi fled the nation in 1979 simply earlier than its Islamic Revolution. The California-based group’s founder disappeared within the mid-2000s.
Iranian intelligence operatives prior to now have used members of the family and different methods to lure targets again to Iran or to pleasant international locations to be captured. An alleged Iranian authorities operative who’s accused of making an attempt to rent a success man to kill Mr. Sharmahd disappeared in 2010 earlier than going through trial in California, probably having returned to Iran.
In line with a 2010 U.S. diplomatic cable from London, later revealed by WikiLeaks, a Voice of America commentator stated that very same operative had earlier been involved with him. The British antiterror police later warned the commentator that he “had been focused by the Iranian regime,” the cable stated.
The 2 instances represented “a transparent escalation within the regime’s makes an attempt to intimidate critics exterior its borders, and will have a chilling impact on journalists, teachers and others within the West who till just lately felt little bodily menace from the regime,” the cable stated.
Mr. Sharmahd final appeared in a web-based livestream video on Dec. 29, in accordance with his group’s web site, talking in Farsi whereas sitting in a black chair in entrance of a black background.
“We’re not solely in search of the liberation of the homeland, however we’re additionally shifting towards a particular path, and that’s to be Iranian,” Mr. Sharmahd stated at one level within the video. “As a result of now we have heard that when upon a time some individuals had been residing within the area who had been in a position to construct an empire.”
The Kingdom Meeting is overshadowed by different exiled opposition teams. However Iran reportedly introduced up the group a number of occasions whereas negotiating the phrases of the 2015 deal, wherein Tehran agreed to restrict its enrichment of uranium in trade for the lifting of financial sanctions.
A spokesman for Iran’s international ministry, Abbas Mousavi, reacted to the information of Mr. Sharmahd’s detention by criticizing the U.S. for permitting him and different militant opponents to dwell in America.
The U.S. “should be answerable for supporting terrorist teams that are within this nation and perform and lead terrorist acts in opposition to the Iranian individuals,” state TV quoted Mr. Mousavi as saying.
An announcement attributed to Tondar claimed the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist in 2010 by a remote-control bomb, although the group later stated it wasn’t accountable. Suspicion lengthy has fallen on Israel for a string of assassinations concentrating on scientists amid issues about Iran’s nuclear program, which the West fears may very well be used to develop a nuclear bomb. Iran has lengthy maintained its program is for peaceable functions.