Iran captures Arab separatist leader linked to military parade attack: state TV

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran’s intelligence ministry has arrested an Iranian ethnic Arab separatist leader suspected of involvement in an attack on a military parade in 2018 that killed dozens of people, Iranian state television reported on Thursday.

An Iranian ethnic Arab opposition movement called the Ahvaz National Resistance, which seeks a separate state in Iran’s oil-rich southwestern province of Khuzestan, claimed responsibility for the attack that killed 25 people, almost half of them members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.

Islamic State militants also claimed responsibility. Neither claim provided evidence.

“Farajollah Chaab, the leader of the separatist group, has been arrested by Iran’s intelligence ministry agents,” state TV said, without elaborating on when or how Chaab - who was based in Sweden - was arrested.

“Chaab has planned several other major attacks in Tehran and Khuzestan province in recent years...he has recently been planning to launch a new terrorist operation that failed with the efforts of the intelligence ministry agents,” state TV said.

It broadcast on Wednesday what it described as the confessions of Chaab, a Swedish-Iranian dual national, who appeared to admit being behind the attack on the military parade in the southwestern city of Ahvaz.

State TV often airs purported confessions by suspects in politically charged cases.

“We are aware that (a) Swedish citizen has appeared in a TV programme in Iran. This is something we are addressing in our contacts with representatives of Iran,” a Swedish Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said in an email to Reuters.

Iran has had tense relations with its minorities, including Arabs, Kurds, Azeris and Baluch, and has accused them of aligning with neighbouring countries rather than Tehran.

The Islamic Republic’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said at the time of the parade attack that the assailants were paid by Iran’s main regional rival Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE denied Khamenei’s allegations.

Additional reporting by Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Mark Heinrich