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Ahwaz group claims responsibility for Iran attacks

The Party of the Ahwazi Arab Movement has claimed that it was responsible for the bomb attacks in Ahwaz City on 12 June.

However, the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) has cast doubt on the group's claims and suggested that the bomb attacks are likely to have been carried out with support from security forces: either a faction of the Iranian military seeking to influence the elections or a unit set up by a foreign government.

Nasser Ban-Assad, BAFS spokesman, said: "Some fringe exile Ahwazi groups are keen to gain notoriety and publicity by claiming responsibility for bomb attacks and pipeline sabotage in Khuzestan. Few Ahwazis believe that such small groups can co-ordinate attacks half-way across the world. These bomb attacks in Ahvaz City - which have been followed by similar explosions in Tehran and Karaj - have nothing to do with the Ahwazis and are part of a wider national and geopolitical dispute between far greater powers.

"It is clear that any group would need expertise and an operational infrastructure to co-ordinate four large explosions within a time-frame of just two hours in one of Iran's most militarised cities. No Ahwazi group has this military capacity or support. Those groups that were once backed by Iraq and Syria were never particularly effective even when they were given arms and explosives, let alone now when they have no foreign support.

"It is highly unlikely the US or the UK would give military support to any Ahwazi group, as suggested by the Iranian government. If they wanted regime change in Tehran, it is unlikely they would turn to Ahwazi Arab groups to achieve their aims."

This is not the first time that fringe Ahwazi groups have claimed responsibility for attacks within Iran. In May, the Elaph website published a claim by Canadian resident Sabah Musawi that an attack on Pipeline 102 (Masjed-e-Soleiman to Ahwaz) was carried out by his grouping, the Canada-based Ahwaz Renaissance Movement. The site also attributes the attack on the Abadan/Abadan-Ma'shuur/Mahshur pipeline to the ARM, which was created in Damascas under the auspices of the Syrian Ba'ath party before moving the Canada some years ago. Few believe the ARM is capable of pipeline sabotage within Khuzestan.

Ban-Assad added: "The danger is that these bomb attacks have given a green light to the Iranian government to detain, torture and murder more Ahwazi Arab civilians. The Revolutionary Guards have already gunned down 160 Arabs in cold blood since the April uprising and many more have "disappeared". We have received reports that Ahwazi Arab political prisoners are being interrogated in the torture chambers of Karoon Prison, while the security forces are sweeping Arab neighbourhoods in Khuzestan arresting people arbitrarily. We fear that the cycle of violence is escalating, leaving little room for negotiation. Arabs are facing increased state violence following the attacks.

"If you want to know who is behind the attacks, you only have to think about who would benefit the most - and it is not the Arabs. Certainly, the more extreme hard-line elements of the Iranian establishment will benefit greatly from the nationalist and religious fervour and anti-Arab sentiments that will arise as a result of these bomb attacks.

"If this was the work of the People's Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI) - or MEK/MKO - they will need to have sneaked out of US custody in Camp Ashraf in Iraq and into Iran while heavily armed, unless they had some help from their captors. This would raise some profound questions about the PMOI's designation as a terrorist group in the US and Europe. I believe that if the US and UK were to use the MKO to launch strikes within Iran, they would wait at least until after the elections and at a time when diplomatic negotiations over Iran's nuclear activities have been exhausted. But we can only speculate at this moment in time."