Iran arrests al-Qaida militants

Oct. 1, 2009 at 11:54 AM
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TEHRAN, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Iranian intelligence officials announced the arrest of several members of foreign-based terrorist groups in the western part of the country.

Iranian Intelligence Minister Heyder Moslehi announced the arrest of 14 members of a "Wahhabi terrorist" group that he said was "affiliated with al-Qaida," reports state-funded news agency Press TV.

The announcement follows a series of arrests earlier this week in the western province of Kordestan, the site of a recent spate of assassinations of high-level judicial authorities.

Iran blamed a variety of "foreign agents" for the attacks, pointing to Salafist groups operating in the region.

Wahhabism and Salafism are often used interchangeably to describe an ultra-conservative form of Sunni Islamic thought that draws on religious teachings to advocate jihad.

Meanwhile, Iranian military officials said they struck a "fatal" blow to militants with the Free Life Party of Kurdistan, or PJAK.

"In a serious clash, the counterrevolutionary group of PJAK sustained fatal damage," said Brig. Gen. Yadollah Javani.

PJAK is affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party and is active in the Kurdish regions of Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria.

Javani went on to blame the U.S. presence in neighboring Iraq for the recent instability in the west of the country.

"One of the goals behind the U.S. occupation of Iraq was to destabilize Iran," he said.

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