Iran says it has leader of California-based exile group

TEHRAN, IRAN (AP) — Iran last Saturday said it detained an Iranian-American leader of a little-known California-based militant opposition group for allegedly planning a 2008 attack on a mosque that killed 14 people and wounded over 200 others.

Iran’s Intelligence Ministry also alleged Jamshid Sharmahd of the Kingdom Assembly of Iran planned other attacks around the republic amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the United States (US) over its collapsing 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

It was unclear how the 65-year-old Sharmahd, whom Iran accused of running the opposition group’s Tondar militant wing, ended up detained by intelligence officials. The Intelligence Ministry called it a “complex operation”, without elaborating. It published a purported picture of Sharmahd, blindfolded, on its website.

Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi later appeared on state TV, saying Sharmahd had been arrested in Iran, without elaborating. Requests for comment sent by email to the Glendora-based Kingdom Assembly of Iran were not immediately answered and a telephone number for the group no longer worked.

The US State Department, which mentioned how Sharmahd earlier had been targetted for assassination in a recent report which acknowledged reports of his detention.

Iranian state television broadcast a report on Sharmahd’s arrest, linking him to the 2008 bombing of the Hosseynieh Seyed al-Shohada Mosque in Shiraz. It also said his group was behind a 2010 bombing at Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s mausoleum in Tehran that wounded several people.

The report also alleged without providing evidence that Tondar, or ‘Thunder’ in Farsi, plotted attacks on a dam and planned to use cyanide bombs at Tehran’s annual book fair.

State TV later aired footage of Sharmahd interspersed with footage from the moment of the 2008 explosion at the Shiraz mosque.

The Intelligence Ministry has not said what charges Sharmahd will face.

Prisoners earlier accused in the same attack were sentenced to death and executed.