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Albin Szakola

Arab separatists attack
Iran government office

ASMLA claims it killed two security officers, while an activist said that there were only injuries.

Susangerd attack. (image via Rahyab News)

BEIRUT – An armed separatist group in southwestern Iran attacked a government office over the weekend in the latest security incident to rock the ethnically Arab-populated Ahvaz region.

 

The Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA) issued a statement Sunday claiming responsibility for the armed operation in Susangerd, saying it had killed two security officers.

 

The group said its Moheiddin Al Nasser Martyr Brigades attacked a governorate administrative office at 11:30 p.m. Saturday night with “hand-made grenades” and opened fire on the security forces guarding the building with light arms.

 

“As a result of the heroic operation two members of the Persian security forces were killed while three others were injured and one car belonging to the security forces was burned,” the statement said.

 

Al-Arabiya television, in turn, cited an anonymous activist in the region as saying that two guards were injured in the strike, without any mention of deaths.

 

Iranian press outlets covered the attack, with pro-government Rahyab News reporting that “unidentified people” had set the building alight before opening fire on it after which they fled the scene.

 

The article made no mention of ASMLA or Arab separatists active in the region which was hit by a number of protests in March.

 

A video released by ASMLA shows the Saturday night attack in Susangerd.

 

Following the attack, an officer in the party’s military wing told Al-Khaleej Online that ASMLA’s “cadres are preparing a number of operations for the near future.”

 

“They will turn Ahvaz into a fire that burns all those who are linked to the Persian occupation,” the unnamed official said.

 

“The coming days will be [replete] with heroic operations that will rumble the [cornerstones] of the Persian enemy.”

 

The most recent ASMLA attack comes weeks after the group claimed responsibility for a number of armed attacks against Iranian security in the southwestern Khuzestan Province.

 

ASMLA says that the “Ahvazi national resistance” has conducted seven attacks against Iranian security forces since March 19

 

In mid-March, ASMLA’s leader threatened that his group’s armed wing, the Moheiddin Al Nasser Martyr Brigades, was prepared to deal “painful blows” to security forces if they continued to suppress demonstrations in the region.

 

“Over the coming days Ahvaz will see violent events between the occupier and the Ahvazi [Arabs],” Habib Jaber al-Ahvazi vowed amid mounting protests in the region.

 

Unrest has been boiling over in Khuzestan after Younes Asakereh, a street vendor in Khoramshahr, immolated himself on March 13 to protest the confiscation of his sales stand. 

 

Days afterward, Iranian authorities arrested local residents supporting a visiting Saudi football club playing against the local football club in the provincial capital Ahvaz.

 

The arrests sparked a melee as a number of the local fans, who had reportedly burned posters of former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei, clashed with security forces and set alight one of their vehicles.

 

Further protests ensued on March 24 when demonstrators held a funeral procession for Asakereh in Ahvaz and chanted against the regime, while two other demonstrations erupted in the towns of Shush and Khafajiyya the following week.

 

Al-Arabiya on March 31 cited human rights groups active in the southwestern Iranian province as saying that authorities fear the protests might spread across the region, which hosts a substantial population of ethnic Arabs.

 

Khuzestan has long been the scene of unrest against the ruling authorities, including the Pahlavi royal dynasty, which put down a revolt in the region in 1924. In the ensuing decades violence sporadically broke out in the Arab-populated regions of the province, most notably in 1979 when more than 100 residents died in an uprising following the Iranian revolution.

 

In mid-April 2005, Ahvaz was hit by four days of protests that opposition activists said left at least 50 dead.  Six years later, protests held on the anniversary of the 2005 events turned deadly as well, with over a dozen people dying.

 

ASMLA, which was founded in 1999, has conducted a number of attacks in Khuzestan, including two bombing in Ahvaz in 2006.

The site of the overnight Saturday attack in Susangerd. (image via Rahyab News)

They will turn Ahvaz into a fire that burns all those who are linked to the Persian occupation.