Iran says it has arrested the head of a United States-based “terrorist group” accused of bombing a mosque in 2008 that killed 14 people and wounded more than 200 others in the southern city of Shiraz.
The group’s “Jamshid Sharmahd, who was leading armed and sabotage operations inside Iran, is now in the powerful hands” of Iran’s security forces, state television said in a report on Saturday, citing a statement from the intelligence ministry.
The statement did not elaborate on where or when the leader of the opposition royalist group known as the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, known in Farsi as Anjoman-e Padeshahi-e Iran, or Tondar (Farsi for thunder), was arrested.
The group seeks to restore Iran’s monarchy, which ended when the fatally ill Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi fled the country in 1979 just before its Islamic Revolution. The group’s founder disappeared in the mid-2000s.
It remains unclear how the US-based accused was arrested.
Tonder ‘planned big operations’
Iranian state television broadcast a report on Sharmahd’s arrest, linking him to the April 12, 2008 bombing of the Hosseynieh Seyed al-Shohada Mosque in Shiraz.
Iran hanged three men convicted of the bombing in 2009, saying they had ties to the monarchist group.
Iran hanged two other convicted members of the group in 2010, who had “confessed to obtaining explosives and planning to assassinate officials”.
The statement issued on Saturday said Tondar had plotted several other “big operations” which failed.
It said Tondar had planned to blow up a dam in Shiraz, use “cyanide bombs” at a Tehran book fair, and plant an explosive device at the mausoleum of Iran’s founder, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 2010.
While overshadowed by other exiled opposition groups, Iran reportedly brought up the Kingdom Assembly of Iran multiple times while negotiating the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw Tehran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
A statement attributed to Tondar claimed the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist in 2010 by a remote-control bomb, though it later said it was not responsible.
Suspicion long has fallen on Israel for a string of assassinations targeting scientists amid concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme, which the West fears could be used to develop a nuclear bomb. Iran long has maintained its programme is for peaceful purposes.
Sharmahd’s arrest came amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington over the collapsing 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from in 2018.
In January, a US drone attack killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad. Iran responded by launching a ballistic missile attack on US soldiers in Iraq that injured dozens.