|Part of Arab separatism in Khuzestan|
|Date||sporadically from 12 June 2005 to 3 March 2006|
|Target||various government and public buildings|
|Deaths||at least 28|
|at least 225|
|Perpetrators||responsibility claimed by the Ahvazi Revolutionary Martyrs' Brigades|
|Iran alleges UK and US involvement|
|Motive||Alleged retaliation for suppression of 2005 Ahvaz unrest|
The Ahvaz bombings were a series of bomb explosions, that took place mostly in Ahvaz, Iran in 2005-2006, and were blamed on Ahvaz separatist organizations of Arabs. The bombings were linked to the violent '15 April unrest' in Ahvaz, prior to the bombings. Some 28 people were killed and 225 wounded in Ahvaz bombings.
The Khuzestan Province has been under Iranian control since 1925, when the Emirate of Muhammerah was effectively merged into Iran, and the consequent rebellion by Sheikh Khazal crashed. The region continued suffering from periodical violent disruptions since, which intensified after the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
In 2005, a wide scale unrest broke out in Ahvaz and the surrounding towns. The unrest erupted on 15 April 2005, and lasted for 4 days. Initially, the Iranian Interior Ministry stated that only one person had been killed, however an official at a hospital in Ahvaz said that between 15 and 20 mortal casualties.
12 June 2005
The bombs in Ahvaz exploded over a two-hour period, four bombs have exploded, killing at least 11 people and wounding more than 87 others, days before the presidential election. One of the bombs exploded outside the governor-general's headquarters. Two went off near government offices and a fourth exploded near the home of a local state television executive. Two hours later, a bomb exploded in the capital Tehran, killing two people. Three other bombs were defused.
"These terrorists have been trained under the umbrella of the Americans in Iraq," The Iranian top national security official Ali Agha Mohammadi said.
15 October 2005
Two bomb blasts hit a shopping center, killing at least six people and injuring up to 100. The attacks, a few minutes apart, took place near an area attacked by several bombs in June. The bombs were planted in rubbish bins. The blasts occurred shortly before dusk as shoppers crowded to buy food for the evening meal that breaks the daily fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
25 January 2006
At least nine people were killed and 48 injured in two blasts. One bomb had exploded in the Kianpars area, inside the Saman Bank, and had killed at least 9 people and wounded 45 others; the second explosion took place on Golestan Road next to the Natural Resources Department, a state environmental agency, causing injuries but no deaths. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been due to give a speech at a religious centre nearby, but the visit had been cancelled due to bad weather. Mr Ahmadinejad's media chief said he did not believe the bombs were linked to the planned visit, because there had been a series of similar blasts last year.
"Our heroes... in the military wing of The Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz attacked and destroyed the dens of the occupying enemy" a statement posted on an Arab separatist organisation website said.
27 February 2006
2 March 2006
At least 19 Arab Iranian were executed since the 2005 Ahvaz unrest and the consequent bombings. In April 2011, another wave of protests erupted across the Khuzestan province, resulting in a dozen killed and scores injured and arrested.
The Iranian government has pointed the blame for the bomb attacks on a number of groups and foreign governments. The government initially blamed the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MeK) and the separatist Ahwazi Arab Peoples Democratic Popular Front (ADPF). Both groups denied responsibility. At least three Arab groups claimed responsibility for the June bombings, including the Canada-based Party of the Ahwaz Arab Renaissance Party (AARP) (aka Hizba al-Nahdah al-Arabi al-Ahwazi) . Sabah al-Musawi of AARP - which was created in Damascus by the Syrian Ba'ath Party - also appeared to justify the killing of civilians, stating: "These people came from outside Ahvaz. These are settlers.... They came to Ahvaz and they must bear the consequences. The regime must bear its responsibilities towards the people it brought as settlers to Ahwaz." The AARP had claimed responsibility for an attack on the Abadan-Ma'shuur pipeline in May 2005.
According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) spokesman Nasser Bani-Assad dismissed the claims of responsibility by various foreign-based separatist groups, alleging that they did not have the ability to carry out an attack and were seeking publicity and notoriety. In a statement on the BAFS website, Bani-Assad said:
- If you want to know who is behind the attacks, you only have to think about who would benefit the most - and it is not the Arabs. Certainly, the more extreme hard-line elements of the Iranian establishment will benefit greatly from the nationalist and religious fervour and anti-Arab sentiments that will arise as a result of these bomb attacks.
Presidential candidate Mostafa Moeen also suggested that those responsible for the Ahvaz attacks were also linked to similar attacks in Tehran and Zahedan. In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Moeen suggested that the violence could have been aimed at encouraging people to vote for a hardline militarist candidate. When asked by the Guardian whether the attacks had the government's approval, he said: "I do not consider it improbable."
Alleged UK, US involvement
The oil-rich Khuzestan province, which is home to about two million ethnic Arabs, has been rocked by a wave of unrest in April 2005. Iran accused British army forces across the border in southern Iraq of co-operating with bombers who carried out January's attacks in Ahvaz. The UK Foreign Office rejected the allegation.
In the months after the June 2005 attacks, government officials and the pro-government media alleged that the UK, US, Canada, Saudi Arabia and the Shell Oil Company all had a role in the bombings, but none published any conclusive evidence. Despite claiming to have arrested those responsible for the attacks, no-one has been charged or put on trial.
Following the October attacks, the head of the judiciary for Khuzestan province, Sayyed Khalil Akbar al-Sadat, blamed "British spies," while the conservative Kayhan newspaper claimed the terrorists were "British soldiers." Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Hossein Mousapour told state-run Mehr news agency:
- Most probably those involved in the explosion were British agents who were involved in the previous incidents in Ahvaz and Khuzestan.
The British Embassy in Tehran denied any responsibility in a statement released after the attacks:
- There has been speculation in the past about alleged British involvement in Khuzestan. We reject these allegations. Any linkage between the British Government and these terrorist outrages is completely without foundation.
Various officials repeated the claim of British involvement, repeating that they had reliable intelligence and confessions from those arrested after the attacks. However, no-one has been tried in connection to the attacks. Senior members of the Bawi (Bavi) tribe were arrested and two were sentenced to death, but it is not known whether this is in connection with the attacks.
U.S. agents have allegedly been working in Iran with anti-government groups. According to Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker: "[T]eams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups."
- Dr. Babak Ganji. Civil Military Relations, State Strategies & Presidential Elections in Iran. Conflict Studies Research Center, Middle East Series, June 2005: p.12.
- Rasmus C. Elling. State of Mind, State of Order: Reactions to Ethnic Unrest in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Wiley publishing doi:10.1111/j.1754-9469.2008.00028.x. Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism Volume 8, Issue 3, pages 481–501, December 2008. "...The first, which will be called the Ahvaz unrest, took place in the south-western Iranian province of Khuzestan, which borders Iraq, and in particular in the regional capital of Ahvaz..."
- Samii, Bill. "Iran: Bombings May Be Connected With Minorities, Election". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
- "Iran/U.K.: Bombing Accusations Highlight 'Differences And Disagreements'". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 9 November 2012.
- Esfandiari, Golnaz. "Iran: President Cancels Trip As Explosions Rock Southern City". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
- MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base
- MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base
- "Middle East |Iranians hang two Ahwaz bombers". BBC News. 2 March 2006.
- MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base
- Asia Times: British Arabism and the bombings in Iran
- Khuzestan: The First Front in the War on Iran? by Zoltan Grossman