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Iran: Army commander assassinated

A senior officer in Iran's 92nd Armored Division was assassinated during a patrol near the Iran-Iraq border on 24 April, according to a government news agency.

Colonel Mortaza Ranjbar, who originates from Kazeroun in Fars Province, was gunned down while leading a team of monitors reportedly deployed to investigate Ahwazi Arab unrest. The 92nd Armored Division is the Iranian army's main tank division.

The area has seen a number of armed attacks on the security forces by militant Ahwazi Arabs. The Iranian regime has blamed Britain for recent attacks on paramilitary Bassij forces visiting Iran-Iraq War battlefields, claiming that the militants are being armed by British forces stationed in Al-Amarah in Iraq. The claims were made on the Tabnak website, which is affiliated to Iran's powerful Expediency Discernment Council, the consultative group chaired by Hashemi Rafsanjani and appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. The group claiming responsibility for the killing of Bassij members is the Sa'ad Ibn Abi Waqqas Brigade, which was unknown before the attacks. The Brigade claims that it killed four members of the Iranian security forces and injured seven, without sustaining any casualties. It says the personnel were travelling to visit an Iran-Iraq War battlefield for the Nowruz holiday. Arab children began attacking the bus convoy with stones before the armed group opened fire.

The Brigade said the attack was carried out in response to the torturing and killing of Ahwazi Arabs. It pledged to strike any Iranian military or paramilitary units inside the "occupied Ahwazi territories" in response to the "unjust policies" and would continue the attacks "so long as there is even one Iranian soldier on Ahwazi soil." The armed group is named after Sa'ad Ibn Abi Waqqas, one of the Prophet Muhammed's companions.

In another development, the Iranian regime has banned Arabs serving in the army from owning mobile phones to prevent the leaking of information.

BAFS does not support separatism or any armed Ahwazi groups, favouring instead a broad coalition based on non-violent civil disobedience to create democratic change in Iran.