The Intelligence Ministry said on 21 June that security forces had arrested ten Sunni militants in Tehran and three other provinces in central Iran and along the border, who had reportedly planned to bomb 50 locations across the country. The suspects allegedly sought to target busy public locations with remotely detonated explosions, suicide attacks and car bombs. The details emerged one day after the Ministry had claimed to have thwarted one of the ‘biggest terror plots’ ever on Iranian soil.
The security forces also purport to have seized 100 kg of explosives as well as ammunition and a further two tons of explosive material were allegedly intercepted before the suspects gained possession of it. The bombings were reportedly planned to take place on 16 June which marks the anniversary of the death of the Prophet Mohammed’s first wife Khadija and is observed with small ceremonies across Iran.
The Ministry statement did not link the plot to any specific group but the semi-official news agency ISNA described the suspects as ‘takfiri wahhabist’. The term is commonly used in Iran to refer to Islamic State (IS), rather than domestic Sunni militants, suggesting the authorities are looking to link the plot to jihadists. Iranian forces are heavily involved in fighting IS in Iraq and Syria and the group sees Tehran as leading a sectarian campaign against Sunnis in the region. Because of this, it undoubtedly aspires to strike inside Iran, and typically looks to launch attacks on religiously symbolic dates to enhance their propaganda value.