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Iran arrests separatist leader accused of deadly attack on military parade

Iranian motorcyclists held a parade in the capital, Tehran, to mark the anniversary of Imam Khomeini’s return from exile in Paris 10 days before the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. (Tasnim News Agency/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran’s Intelligence Ministry has confirmed the arrest of a separatist group leader allegedly involved in a deadly attack during a military parade in 2018.

In a statement cited by state-run IRNA news agency on November 12, the ministry said Farajollah Cha’ab had been identified and arrested.

Cha’ab was described as “the main person in the terrorist attack” in the southwestern city of Ahvaz in 2018, adding that he had planned several other large attacks in Tehran and Khuzestan Province in recent years.

The statement did not elaborate on when or where he was arrested.

The Ahwaz Arab Liberation Movement has been active since 2005. It seeks a separate state in Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan Province.

Al-Arabia previously quoted the group as saying that Iranian agents had kidnapped Cha’ab in Turkey with the “cooperation of a third country.”

Mojtaba Zulnoori, head of the parliament’s National Security Committee, later said that Iran’s security and intelligence services were “interrogating” Cha’ab.

On September 22, 2018, gunmen dressed in military uniforms opened fire on an annual military parade in Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan Province.

The attackers and at least 25 other people were reportedly killed, about half of them members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

The IRGC later claimed it had killed the “mastermind” behind the assault in an operation in neighboring Iraq.

The man, identified as Abu Zaha, was said to be a member of Islamic State (IS), an extremist Sunni group that considers Iran’s Shi’ite Muslim majority to be heretics.

Both IS militants and the Ahwaz National Resistance, which is linked to the Ahwaz Arab Liberation Movement, claimed responsibility.

Neither group provided conclusive evidence to back up its claim.