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Iran arrests Ahwazi "terrorists"

The Iranian regime has arrested five Ahwazi Arabs while claiming that it had broken up an Ahwazi "terrorist" group it claims is backed by the US, British and Israeli government.

Issa Mahdi Sawari, Mohammad Hatab Sari, Issa Zaeri, Abdulrahman Haidari and Abdolnaser Hamadi were arrested earlier this month and are being held at an undisclosed location. According the British Ahwazi Friendship Society's (BAFS) sources in Ahwaz, none of the men were known to have been involved in serious political activities. Abdulrahman Haidari shares the same name as a well-known Ahwazi activist who was interviewed by Al-Jazeera TV, talking about Arab political demands. However, they are not the same person.

According to the semi-official Fars News Agency, Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie said: "Iranian intelligence agents, in their latest operation, have prevented a terrorist act by an anti-revolutionary group, They were aiming to carry out a terrorist act in the south of the (southwestern) Khuzestan province but they were arrested before carrying out any action." (click here for statement)

Ejeie did not reveal the names of those arrested, but BAFS believes the five arrested Ahwazis have been held in connection with the alleged "terrorist" plot. He claimed the US government was trying "to spread division and splits between forces of revolution and those loyal to the system by utilising some naive and uninformed people."

Further reports from Iran claim that the British government was assisting Ahwazis in smuggling weapons into Iran. The Baztab website claimed that a "British agent" had been arrested. (click here for report)

The regime has yet to publish any evidence to support its claim that foreign governments are using Ahwazis to carry out bomb attacks in Iran, beyond forced confessions shown on the local television network. A number of Ahwazi political prisoners have been executed in recent months, accused of waging war on God. Two executed Ahwazis were accused of carrying out bomb attacks in Ahwaz in 2005 and 2006, although they had been in prison since 2000. UN experts and international human rights organisations have condemned the regime's secret trials of Ahwazi Arabs and their lack of legal representation.

Craig Murray, Britain's former ambassador to Uzbekistan and a strong critic of British foreign policy, told BAFS of his doubts about Iranian claims of British involvement in any Ahwazi insurgency. He said that the UK "would only consider providing training for insurgent groups if there was a clearly defined military objective and good chance of success. I cannot imagine [the British] are doing anything like this in Iran."

Ejeie also said that in recent months a "number of anti-revolutionaries" had been arrested by Iran's neighboring countries and extradited back to the Islamic republic. Although Ejeie did not reveal the name of the states involved, the Syrian Ba'athist regime is co-operating with Iran in the arrest and deportation of Ahwazi refugees. (click here for more information on Ahwazi refugees)