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Tehran Admits Kidnapping Iranian Separatist

Iran -- Logo of Islamic Republic of Iran Intelligence Ministry.
Iran -- Logo of Islamic Republic of Iran Intelligence Ministry.

After a long delay, Iranian Ministry of Intelligence officially announced on November 12 that its agents had arrested and interrogated Farajollah Ka'ab, a former leader of a separatist group active in Khuzestan in southwest Iran, following his arrest earlier in the month.

Ka'ab, also known as Habib Esywed, is the former leader of Harakat al-Nidhal al-Arabi, or the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA).

The group has been active since 2005 and says it is fighting for "the independence of Khuzestan province and its separation from Iran."

On October 31, the Al-Arabiya news network reported that Iranian intelligence agents, in tandem with an unnamed country, had lured Ka'ab into Turkey before taking him into custody and returning him to Iran.

A day later, the chairman of Majlis' National Security Commission, Mojtaba Zolnouri, confirmed that Iranian security and intelligence forces had captured Ka'ab.

Ka'ab is under interrogation and will soon be punished for his crimes, Zolnouri shared, though Iran's Ministry of Intelligence did not confirm Zolnouri's statement.

Weeks after Zolnouri's comments, the Ministry of Intelligence is still silent about details related to Ka'ab's capture, declining to say where and how its agents took the former leader of the separatist group into custody.

Per the Ministry's official statement, "With the specialized and combined actions of the anonymous soldiers of Imam Zaman, the leader of the separatist group of the Al-Nidhal Movement, Farajollah Ka'ab, was identified and arrested."

The Soldiers of Imam Zaman is a term used for referring to Iran's spies and intelligence agents.

Twelver Shi'ite Muslims believe that Imam Zaman is the "promised Mahdi," the ultimate savior of humankind, who will emerge along with Isa, or Jesus Christ, to fulfill their mission of bringing peace and justice to the world.

According to the state-run Iran Students News Agency, the Ministery of Intelligence announced that Ka'ab "had planned several other large operations in Tehran and Khuzestan and was recently planning to lead a new terrorist operation."

In its statement, the Ministry of Intelligence described Ka'ab as the "main perpetrator" of a deadly attack in September 2018 in Ahvaz, which killed at least 25 people.

"The main perpetrator of the bloody terrorist attack on September 22, 2018, in Ahvaz is now in the hands of the Ministry of Intelligence; he also has given details of other terrorist and bloody operations of this group," the statement says.

"This terrorist group, which is directly supported by the Saudi intelligence services and the Zionist regime, has been managing terrorist operations in Iran despite the issuance of international orders for the group's leaders," the statement added.

Iran considers ASMLA as a "terrorist" entity, though ASMLA has previously asserted that it had no role in the Ahvaz attack.

In February 2020, Denmark announced that it had arrested and charged three members of ASMLA on charges of spying for Saudi Arabia.

Dutch police also stated that ASMLA has a military branch that has carried out armed attacks in Iran, mainly targeting the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) forces and Iran's oil and gas facilities and fields.

Since its foundation in 1979, Iran's Islamic Republic has been active in killing Iranian dissidents abroad, including Mohammad Reza Shah's nephew, Shahriar Shafiq; Iran's last Prime Minister pre-revolution, Shapour Bakhtiar, in Paris, and the famous showman and singer, Fereydoun Farrokhzad, in Bonn.

In 2017, ASMLA's founder, Ahmad Mola Nissi, died in the Netherlands of a gunshot wound.

Iran has recently intensified its actions to lure dissidents into neighboring countries and abduct them there.

On October 14, 2019, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' Intelligence Organization announced they had brought a Paris-based Iranian political activist, Ruhollah Zam, back to Iran, where they arrested him.

Additionally, last August, Tehran said it arrested U.S.-based pro-monarchy Iranian dissident Jamshid Sharmahd.