Facing tough questions about hundreds of protesters killed in November protests, Iranian officials have been announcing arrests of "saboteurs" and armed opponents to back-up their theories of foreign conspiracies in fomenting the unrest.
The Islamic Republic security forces have dismantled a "terrorist cell," in Ahvaz, the capital city of the oil-rich Khuzestan province, southwestern Iran, the provincial police commander claimed on Friday, December 27.
Speaking to reporters, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Brigadier General Heidar Abbaszadeh announced two leading members of the cell were arrested and admitted their crimes during police investigations.
The group, he said, "played a role" in fomenting unrest in Ahvaz during mid-November protests that gripped most of Iran and was met with the use of deadly force by the government. Security forces shot dead hundreds of protesters.
However, Abbaszadeh did not elaborate on the identity of the members of the "cell" or its affiliation.
The Islamic Republic government has so far not released any casualty figures as Iranians have been harshly criticizing its bloody response to the protests. One line of attempted self-defense by the government has been to advance conspiracy theories saying the protests were fomented from abroad.
Khuzestan was the scene of harshest security forces' responses to the protests. As the local security forces failed to control the protesters, IRGC forces stepped in the city of Mahshahr and even used heavy machineguns and tanks to quell the anti-regime demonstrations.
Dozens of people who had taken refuge in marshes near Mahshahr were indiscriminately barraged with bullets.
Since then, a day hardly goes by without IRGC Brigadier General Abbaszadeh appearing before reporters and cameras to announce new arrests and news about dismantling "terrorist cells."
Last Wednesday, Abbaszadeh had announced that intelligence agents had arrested an individual on charges of sending information during the recent protests in Mahshahr county to the London-based Iran International Television.
"The arrested individual has reported fake news about the protests in Mahshahr to Iran International TV," Abbaszadeh told reporters.
Earlier this week, the Islamic Republic Judiciary also claimed that the intelligence forces had seized a haul of "U.S.-made weapons" in the central city of Isfahan, claiming they were smuggled into Iran from the western border to be used in the November anti-Islamic Republic rallies.
The public prosecutor of Isfahan, Ali Esfahani, asserted the consignment consisted of over 126 pellet guns, firearms, and AK-47 as well as 900 live rounds.
"The weapons had been smuggled from western borders and were confiscated by members of the Intelligence Ministry in Isfahan province," Esfahani said. A few weapons were on display during his interview with government media.
The Judiciary official noted that five people had been arrested on charges of smuggling the weapons and will face trial.
Nevertheless, he stopped short of saying that if the weapons were used during the unrest or not.
"The Islamic Republic security and intelligence forces have arrested over 100 ringleaders and masterminds of the violent attacks, so far," the IRGC-linked Tasnim news agency reported on Friday.
In the meantime, Abbaszadeh claimed that his forces had dismantled a "network" for its activities on social media.
"The network planned to urge people of Khuzestan to rise up and challenge the Islamic Republic authorities," he added without elaboration.