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Iran arrests 10 Islamic State members, blames Israel for sending them

Tehran claims Mossad despatched ’10 Daesh terrorists’ in plot to attack worshipers on the Shiite holy day of Ashura

Thousands of Shiite Muslims take part in Ashura mourning at Imam Hussein's shrine in the Iraqi holy city of Karbala on September 20, 2018.(AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE)
Thousands of Shiite Muslims take part in Ashura mourning at Imam Hussein's shrine in the Iraqi holy city of Karbala on September 20, 2018.(AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s intelligence ministry said Thursday it had arrested 10 Islamic State group suspects who were planning attacks targeting religious commemorations, days ahead of the major Shiite mourning ritual of Ashura.

The ministry said that “10 Daesh terrorists,” using another name for the Islamic State group, had been arrested, adding that they had been “sent to carry out several terror operations among the mourners.”

Two intelligence agents were injured in a gun battle during the arrests, it added.

Iran also accused arch-foe Israel of using the jihadists as attackers, claiming the men were sent following “last week’s big failure in the explosion of a sensitive center” that it blamed on “separatist terrorists.”

Following that failed attack, Iran’s intelligence ministry on July 27 said it had arrested agents linked to Israel’s Mossad spy agency, who were also members of an outlawed Kurdish rebel group.

“The Zionist criminal regime… this time around, tried to carry out its terrorist operations through takfiri IS teams,” the statement added, referring to Israel.

Iranian Shiite Muslims burn a tent during the reenactment of the Battle of Karbala, in Tehran on September 20, 2018, during the annual Ashura commemorations (AFP PHOTO / STR)

Iran and Israel have been engaged in a years-long shadow war, with the Islamic Republic accusing the Jewish state of carrying out sabotage attacks against its nuclear sites and assassinations of key figures, including scientists.

Iran is currently commemorating the first 10 days of the Islamic holy month of Muharram, culminating in Ashura on Monday, when worshipers throng mosques and take part in processions.

Ashura marks the death of the revered Shiite Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.

The intelligence ministry said the men had entered from neighboring Iraq and Turkey, and were arrested in operations over the past three days in western and southern Iran.

Iranians walk past a mural depicting the Iranian Revolution at Palestine Square in the capital Tehran, on July 31 2022 (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

A report on state television showed equipment reportedly confiscated from the suspects, including a sniper rifle, knives, phones and laptop computers. It also showed one of the arrested men, who was blindfolded.

The ministry called the men “takfiris,” a term usually used in Iran and other countries to refer to Sunni extremists. Iran has been involved in the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria through military “advisers.”

In June 2017, the Islamic State claimed a twin attack targeting the Iranian parliament complex and the mausoleum of the founder of the first supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, killing 17 people.

Last June, Iran hanged a Sunni extremist who was sentenced to death for killing two Shiite clerics and wounding another in April, with officials blaming “takfiri elements” for the attack.

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