Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Tehran, Iran (4E) – A persistent Arab resistance group fighting to secure the independence of the oil-rich province of Khuzestan from Iran and supported by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia claims it carried out the Sept. 22 gunfire attack on a military parade at the city of Ahvaz that killed 29 persons and wounded some 70 others.
Iranian state-run media reported that four fighters from a branch of the “al-Ahvaziya” Arab nationalist insurgent group opened fire for 10 minutes on defenseless soldiers from the Islamic Republic of Iran Army (or Artesh); the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and local militia marching in a military parade that commemorated Sacred Defense Week.
This event marks the 38th anniversary of Iran’s 1980-88 war with Iraq. Iranian media said half of those killed were members of the IRCG and the Artesh. Iran claims its soldiers killed all four attackers who were dressed in military uniforms. The remainder of those killed in the gunbattle were civilians.
Al-Ahvaziya or the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA) is an Arab nationalist insurgent group fighting for a separate Arab state in Khuzestan Province. It is classified as a terrorist group by the Iranian government. Ahvaz is the capital of Khuzestan.
ASMLA, however, has denied responsibility for the attack. It blamed the assault on the “Ahvaz National Resistance (ANR),” a group it expelled from its ranks in 2015. ASMLA spokesman Yacoub Hor al-Tostari affirmed that ANR launched the attack.
Yaqoob Al-Ahvaz of the ANR said his group carried out the attack since it has “no choice but to resist” Iranian oppression. He said the attack “was in response to the repression of Ahvazi Arabs. We do not have a choice but to carry out a resistance.”
While not much is known about the shadowy ASMLA, the IRGC claims the group is “funded by Saudi Arabia.” Iranian media, however, insists ASMLA is behind the attack.
The deadly attack was a blow to the Iranian government “on the day it wants to give a message to the world that it is powerful and in control,” said al-Tostari. To prove his claim ASMLA carried out the attack, al-Tostari gave details about one of the attackers.
Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, an adviser to Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, justified the Ahvaz attack. He tweeted that “attacking a military target is not a terrorist act” and “moving the battle deeper inside Iran is a declared option.” He warned attacks like this “will increase during the next phase.”
Iran blamed the United States and several Arab countries for the attack.
“These terrorists… were trained and organised by two … Gulf countries,” said Brig. Gen, Abolfazl Shekarchi, spokesman of the Iranian Armed Forces. The Gulf countries Gen. Shekarchi referred to are thought to be the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
“They are not from Daesh (an Arabic epithet for ISIS) or other groups fighting (Iran’s) Islamic system … but they are linked to America and (Israel’s intelligence agency]) Mossad.”
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused U.S.-backed Gulf Arab states of carrying out the Ahvaz gun attack. He ordered security forces to bring to justice those responsible for one of the worst assaults ever against the IRGC, whose main role is to defend the gains made by the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
“This crime is a continuation of the plots of the regional states that are puppets of the United States, and their goal is to create insecurity in our dear country,” said Khamenei.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that “Terrorists recruited, trained, armed & paid by a foreign regime have attacked Ahvaz. Children and journos among casualties. Iran holds regional terror sponsors and their US masters accountable for such attacks. Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives.”
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