Iran cracks down on Salafists in wake of Tehran attacks

Al Monitor | Fazel Hawramy: Iranian authorities have rounded up at least 150 people in Tehran and in the Kurdish areas in the west of the country following the June 7 terrorist attacks in the capital, which claimed 18 lives.

The five young attackers who pledged allegiance to the ISIS in a video released shortly after the attacks appear to have traveled from Kermanshah province to Tehran undetected in early June. The rare but deadly strikes targeted two of the most guarded locations in the capital: the parliament and the mausoleum of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

How these men obtained firearms and explosives to carry out the attacks is not clear, but Iranian officials have admitted that the country’s security establishment was taken by surprise. On June 27, parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission held its second closed-door session to examine the June 7 attacks. “In this session, the new plan to maintain the security of the parliament and the ways to confront future possible incidents were discussed and necessary measures were taken,” the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency reported about the meeting. Iran has held ISIS directly responsible for the attacks, but it ultimately blamed the United States and “regressive” regimes in the Persian Gulf region for supporting the group. As a symbolic gesture, on June 18 Iran fired several missiles from the Kurdish areas in the west of the country, where the attackers came from, at an IS position in northeast Syria. “Our enemies should know that Tehran is not London or Paris; this was a small measure, and if they make another mistake, we will strike them with deadlier attacks,” said Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Since the June 7 attacks, security forces have taken no chances and have rounded up a large number of individuals mainly associated with Salafist groups in a bid to crack down on their activities, sources inside Iran and human rights activists from outside the country told Al-Monitor. “More than 50 individual terrorist backers were arrested in Kermanshah province following the terrorist incident in Tehran, and a number of explosive belts, electronic detonators and weapons were discovered,” Mohammad Hossein Sadeghi, the prosecutor of Kermanshah province, said on June 25.

“No one has been freed apart from two women,” said a source from the town of Paveh, where four of the attackers came from and where the Iranian authorities are said to have arrested more than 50 individuals. At least one of the attackers, Saryas Sadeghi, was reported to have been on the radar of the intelligence services, said sources in Paveh, but it is not clear how he managed to travel to Tehran to carry out the strikes along with four other attackers. “One of Saryas’ brothers has been arrested, and he is still in custody,” an activist who monitors the human rights situation told Al-Monitor.

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