Key militant groups and attacks in Iran


A gun attack against a military parade in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz at the weekend killed 29 people and wounded scores. While the Islamic State group claimed responsibility, Tehran blamed the assault on the Ahwazi Democratic Popular Front, an Arab separatist movement.

Compared with regional peers, Iran has suffered only sporadic militant attacks in recent years. But a number of groups represent a threat to the Shia powerhouse.

The Ahwazi Democratic Popular Front calls for secession by the Ahvaz region in Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province.

Iran blamed the group for Saturday's attack on a military parade in Ahvaz, which killed women and children, as the country marked the anniversary of the start of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq. But it is not the first time Tehran has accused the ADPF of violence in the volatile region. A string of riots and bombings in Ahvaz in 2005 were blamed on the group, which adamantly denied any role in the violence.

The ADPF says on its website that it is a "leading nationalist organisation struggling to regain the rights of the Arab people of Ahwaz," including but not limited to the "right to self-determination, freedom and independence".

London-based opposition channel Iran International TV aired an interview with Yaqoub Hor Altostari, presented as a spokesman for ADPF, indirectly claiming responsibility for the September 22 attack in Ahvaz. He called the gun assault "resistance against legitimate targets." But in a statement on its website, the ADPF denied carrying out the attack.

IS claimed its first attack in Iran on 7 June 2017, when gunmen and suicide bombers hit the parliament in Tehran and the shrine of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, killing 17 people and wounding dozens. In a video released in March 2017, the jihadists threatened to retaliate against Iran for its military and logistical support to the Syrian and Iraqi governments, as Damascus and Baghdad battled IS insurgencies.

The jihadists said they wanted to conquer Iran to "return it to the Sunni Muslim nation" and to provoke a Shia bloodbath.

The extremist Sunni group Jundallah began a bloody rebellion against the Islamic republic in 2000. It has drawn on support from the Baloch ethnic group, which has a major presence in Sistan-Balochistan province, bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Iran has long alleged Jundallah received training from the American, British and Israeli intelligence services. But after a spate of deadly attacks from 2007 to 2010 – including twin suicide bombings against a Shia mosque in Sistan-Baluchistan that killed 28 and wounded more than 250 –  the group's activities have been largely curbed since 2010.

Iranian authorities have blamed "counter-revolutionary" groups based in north-eastern Iraq for several attacks, particularly the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran and the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan.

On 20 July 2018, at least 10 Revolutionary Guards were killed in an attack led by insurgents against a base in the village of Dari, in the Marivan district of Iran's north-western Kurdistan region. The attack was not claimed.

After the attacks in Tehran on 7 June 2017, Iran ramped up anti-militant operations across the country, targeting north-western regions, the Iraqi borderlands and the Kurdish minority.    (AFP)

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