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Kurds' role cited in Iran attacks

Ethnicity likely, sources say by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports | June 10, 2017 at 3:55 a.m.

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iranian authorities arrested 41 people Friday in connection with the twin terror attacks this week, the semiofficial Fars news agency reported, as evidence mounted that Iranian Kurds affiliated with the Islamic State extremist group had carried out the assaults.

Iranian leaders, meanwhile, accused the United States and Saudi Arabia of supporting the attacks, which killed 17 people in Tehran.

The men who made their way through the parliament building Wednesday were probably Iranian Kurds, security sources say, though only one has been identified. The two people who attacked a shrine are understood to be an Iranian Kurd and a man whose background is unknown, the security sources said.

The man identified by the Ministry of Intelligence, Serias Sadeghi, is a Kurdish Iranian from the city of Paveh in western Iran near the Iraqi border. In 2014, the Democratic Party of Kurdistan Iran, an opposition party, published a report about increasing Islamic State activities in Iranian Kurdistan that singled out Sadeghi as a prominent recruiter who, at times, held sessions in a local mosque.

One website, KhabarDena.Ir, on Friday quoted a community leader from Paveh, Mamusta Molla Ghader Ghaderi, as saying that some of the attackers were from Paveh. A video posted on the Islamic State media channel Aamaq News on Thursday shows a group of five men, with their leader dressed in black with his face covered by a mask, speaking in both Arabic and Kurdish, claiming responsibility for the attacks.

"This is a message from the soldiers of Islamic State in Iran, soldiers of the first brigade of Islamic State in Iran which, God willing, won't be the last," the leader says. "This brigade will mark the start of jihad in Iran, and we call on our Muslim brothers to join us."

He concluded his message with a threat to Saudi Arabia, saying that it, too, will be targeted.

Publicly, the Iranian leadership has sought to cast blame for the attacks on its favorite targets: Saudi Arabia, the United States and Israel. The assaults "will only increase hatred for the governments of the United States and their stooges in the region like the Saudis," Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said.

In a condolence message ahead of a funeral for the victims, Khamenei said the attack "will not damage the Iranian nation's determination," state media reported.

On Thursday, Iran's Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi said investigators were working to determine whether Saudi Arabia had a role in Wednesday's attacks but said it was too soon to say whether that was the case.

During the funeral, parliament Speaker Ali Larijani called the U.S. the "international" version of the Islamic State and said Washington had exchanged democracy for money, a reference to a recent arms deal between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. State TV broadcast the ceremony live.

He said anti-Iranian remarks by Saudi Arabia's foreign minister and President Donald Trump are a "matter of disgrace" for them.

Larijani also criticized a Wednesday decision by the U.S. Senate to move forward on a new set of sanctions against Iran, including its elite Revolutionary Guards, a move that came on the same day as the Tehran attacks.

During a massive funeral ceremony in Tehran after Friday prayers, thousands chanted "Down with the U.S." and "Death to Al-Saud," the Saudi royal family, while carrying coffins of victims.

While evidence that this week's attacks were carried out by Iranian Kurds is becoming irrefutable, Iranian authorities are typically reluctant to admit to having homegrown terrorists or to reveal their ethnic backgrounds. Both would indicate a degree of instability and tensions that the Iranian leadership would rather not acknowledge. The fact that the attackers are in all likelihood Iranian Kurds, Sunnis from inside the country, is a source of concern, one analyst said.

"The border towns and villages and tribes along Iran's East, West and Southern borders are poor and vulnerable to extremism," said Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, an Arabic affairs analyst. "Young unemployed men can be wooed and recruited."

Scanners, body checks and heavily armed soldiers or police have been rare sights in Tehran, which has seemingly been immune in recent years to the terror attacks plaguing much of the Middle East and Europe.

But on Friday, two days after the attacks at the city's landmark parliament building and the golden, domed mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, heavily armed police and soldiers were everywhere.

Three members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps stood at every metro station entrance, checking bags and keeping an eye out for suspicious people. Plainclothes agents, recognizable by their government-issued walkie-talkies, paced up and down the streets, stopping anyone who looked out of the ordinary.

Information for this article was contributed by Thomas Erdbrink of The New York Times and by Nasser Karimi, Maamoun Youssef in Cairo and Frances D'Emilio of The Associated Press.

A Section on 06/10/2017

Print Headline: Kurds' role cited in Iran attacks


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