Albin Szakola

Arab separatists claim
attack on Iran oil facility

The Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz says it blew up a petroleum installation in Behbahan.

ASMLA attack. (YouTube)

BEIRUT – A militant Arab separatist group claims to have attacked an oil facility in Iran’s southwestern Khuzestan province, while Iranian outlets remain silent on the incident.


The Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA) published a video Sunday showing a large explosion ripping through the night sky over what the organization claimed was an oil facility in the town of Behbahan.


The group’s armed wing had issued a statement on September 3 claiming an attack on the petroleum installation, the latest attack by the Arab party since unrest hit the oil-rich region in March.


“The Moheiddin Al Nasser Martyr Brigades carried out a large special operation at dawn on Thursday that targeted the oil installations near the city of Arjan (Behbahan), inflicting heavy material and economic losses on the Persian occupation,” the statement said.


ASMLA added that the operation had come “at the moment when some thought the Persian occupation’s state had come out victorious, or at least undefeated, in its struggle with the international community over its nuclear program and the souls of our innocent Arab brothers in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.”


The separatist group on April 1 announced that anti-Tehran Arab groups had “stepped up armed operations targeting the Iranian Revolutionary [Guards]” in the southwestern region of Iran.


ASMLA claimed in the early spring that the “Ahvazi national resistance” has conducted seven attacks against Iranian security forces since March 19, leaving a number of security officers dead.


Iranian press outlets confirmed one of the attacks, but did not report that it was conducted by Arab separatists, saying instead than an investigation has been launched to identify and arrest the perpetrators.


On May 17, the group’s military wing attacked a governorate administrative office in Susangerd in an operation acknowledged by Rahyab News, which reported that “unidentified people” had set the building alight before opening fire on it after which they fled the scene.


Khuzestan unrest


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.

ASMLA video claiming to show their purported attack in Behbahan. (YouTube)

The Moheiddin Al Nasser Martyr Brigades carried out a large special operation at dawn on Thursday that targeted the oil installations near the city of Arjan.