Iran has nabbed the alleged ringleader of a group of Iranian exiles in California accused of carrying out terrorist attacks against the Islamic Republic, the country’s ministry of intelligence announced.
The leader of Tondar (Persian for ‘thunder’), identified as Jamshid Sharmahd, was captured in an intelligence operation, state media reported on Saturday. The US-based group seeks the overthrow of the Iranian government and the return of the country’s monarchy that ruled the country prior to the Revolution and the fall of the Shah in 1979.
Sarmahd was apprehended while “leading armed and sabotage operations inside Iran,” AFP reported, citing a government statement. It’s not clear under what circumstances he was arrested. His biography on Tondar’s website claims he emigrated to Los Angeles in 2003.
In a statement, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry said it had dealt a “heavy and serious blow” to the group. The ministry said it would release more details about the operation at a later time.
Tehran has accused Tondar of being behind a number of terrorist attacks, including a 2008 bombing of a mosque in the southern city of Shiraz, which killed 14 people and injured 202. The group reportedly took responsibility for the attack.
Despite its connections to violent acts carried out on Iranian soil, Tondar is not currently listed as a terrorist group by the US State Department. Tehran claims that Tondar has been able to raise funds and organize attacks from its Los Angeles headquarters without interference from Washington. The group operates radio and television stations in which they call for the violent overthrow of the Iranian government. The US has refused requests by Tehran to shut down Tondar’s operations.
The arrest comes amid growing tensions between Washington and Tehran. The Trump administration has openly supported protests and other anti-government actions in Iran. Last month, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani attended the Free Iran Global Summit, hosted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which has called for the overthrow of the Iranian government.
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