Iranian authorities say they have broken up what they are calling the “biggest plot ever” by Sunni extremists against the capital Tehran and other parts of the country. They accuse “Takfiri” militants of being behind the alleged plot.
Iranian state TV announced Monday that the country’s intelligence ministry had succeeded in capturing and arresting a number of alleged Sunni “terrorists” whom it claimed were plotting to bomb Tehran and other areas.
The television report added that police also confiscated explosives and ammunition while making the arrests. It referred to the alleged “plotters” as Takfiris, while other Iranian media reported they belonged to the so-called Islamic State group.
Iran’s national security chief, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, who was appointed to be Tehran’s security coordinator in Syria last week, told journalists that Iran’s security services were facing a variety of terrorist threats, including from Sunni militants.
He said Iran’s police and national security forces are battling terrorist forces, along the lines of those which have been attacking targets in Europe recently.
Iran claimed last week to have defeated a terrorist attack against its Revolutionary Guard forces in a mostly Kurdish province near the Iraqi and Turkish borders.
A Revolutionary Guard commander in the area told state TV his forces had killed a dozen alleged terrorists during the fighting.
Arab media reported that Kurdish separatists also killed a large number of Revolutionary Guard forces, as well. VOA could not independently confirm either claim.
Mehrdad Khonsari, a former Iranian diplomat and London-based analyst, tells VOA that Iranian officials have not been very specific over claims of plots by the Islamic State, but that Sunni militants might want revenge over Iranian activities in either Iraq or Syria.
“It is possible that IS could dispatch one or two people to do certain things, because obviously the Iranians are involved against them in a serious way in both Iraq and Syria,” said Khonsari.
Former Iranian president Abolhassan Bani Sadr, however, told VOA he thinks the Iranian government is using alleged plots by Sunni extremists as a pretext to justify its own involvement in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
He said the government’s goal is both to justify the war it’s conducting in Iraq and Syria and to frighten the people in order to keep them quiet. He noted that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has warned in the past that Iran “‘must fight the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria so that terrorists don’t come and attack Iran’s own cities.’”