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Senior Bassij-linked cleric assassinated in Iran-Iraq War battlefield

An imam jomeh (prayer leader) from Taibad in Iran's Khorasan province was assassinated while visiting the Arab-majority city of Al Khafajiyah (Susangerd) in the restive Arab-populated region in southwest Iran, according to the Tabnak news website.

Cleric Abbas Abbasian was gunned down along with a number of members of the Bassij, Iran's volunteer paramilitary militia, while visiting Iran-Iraq War battlefields in the area. As an imam jomeh, Abbasian held considerable political power in Taibad. Imam jomehs work closely with the Revolutionary Guards and answer to the Supreme Leader. Abbasian was also a commander in the Bassij, which forms part of the Revolutionary Guards.

Several assassinations of Bassij commanders have taken place recently in the battlefields, which the Iranian regime has blamed on Britain. According to Tabnak, a mobile phone containing British telephone numbers was seized in arrests that followed attacks last month. It also claims that the guns used in the attacks were supplied by British forces stationed in Al-Amarah in Iraq. The Tabnak website is affiliated to Iran's powerful Expediency Discernment Council, the consultative group chaired by Hashemi Rafsanjani and appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) received a statement from an Ahwazi group named the Sa'ad Ibn Abi Waqqas Brigade which claimed responsibility for an armed attack on a bus travelling along the Bostan-Howaiza road on 27 March at 8pm. 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. It is unknown whether the group is responsible for other attacks in the area, including the assassination of Abbasian.

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.