Iran Says It Detained Leader of California-Based Exile Group

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 Assembly of Iran, deliberate extra assaults across the Islamic Republic amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the United States.

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 operating Tondar, or “Thunder” in Farsi, a militant wing of the Kingdom Assembly of Iran. The circumstances of his seize are unclear; the Intelligence Ministry known as it a “complex 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 Assembly of Iran, based mostly in Glendora, Calif., weren’t instantly answered and a phone quantity for the group not labored.

According to a recent report published by the U.S. State Department, Mr. Sharmahd had been focused for assassination. The U.S. State Department 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 e-book honest.

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 model of the footage resembled that utilized in one of the more than 350 coerced confessions that a rights group says the broadcaster has aired during the last decade.

The Intelligence Ministry has not stated what fees Mr. Sharmahd will face. Prisoners earlier accused in the identical assault had been sentenced to dying and executed.

The Kingdom Assembly of Iran, recognized in Farsi as Anjoman-e Padeshahi-e Iran, and Tondar search to revive Iran’s monarchy, which ended when the fatally ailing 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 up to now have used relations 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 successful man to kill Mr. Sharmahd disappeared in 2010 earlier than dealing with trial in California, possible having returned to Iran.

According to 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 targeted by the Iranian regime,” the cable stated.

The two circumstances represented “a clear escalation in the regime’s attempts to intimidate critics outside its borders, and could have a chilling effect on journalists, academics and others in the West who until recently felt little physical threat from the regime,” the cable stated.

Mr. Sharmahd final appeared in an internet 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 are not only seeking the liberation of the homeland, but we are also moving toward a special direction, and that is to be Iranian,” Mr. Sharmahd stated at one level within the video. “Because we have heard that once upon a time some people were living in the region who were able to build an empire.”

The Kingdom Assembly is overshadowed by different exiled opposition teams. But Iran reportedly introduced up the group a number of instances whereas negotiating the phrases of the 2015 deal, through which Tehran agreed to restrict its enrichment of uranium in change for the lifting of financial sanctions.

A spokesman for Iran’s overseas 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 reside in America.

The U.S. “must be responsible for supporting terrorist groups which are inside of this country and carry out and lead terrorist acts against the Iranian people,” state TV quoted Mr. Mousavi as saying.

A press release 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 focusing on scientists amid considerations about Iran’s nuclear program, which the West fears could possibly be used to develop a nuclear bomb. Iran has lengthy maintained its program is for peaceable functions.

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