Dubai, Jan 5: An Arab opposition group has claimed two pipeline bombings in Iran’s oil-rich south and threatened to launch more attacks in the coming year as the country tries to boost production following the nuclear deal with world powers.
Iranian Interior Ministry spokesman Salman Samani later denied the claim by the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, which said it bombed the pipelines early Tuesday morning in Khuzestan province.
The militants released an online video they said showed one of the pipelines exploding.
The Associated Press could not immediately verify the footage, though previous attacks have been attributed to the group.
The statement from the opposition said the bombings came in response to Iran’s Oil Ministry publishing a list of 29 international companies qualified to bid for projects following the atomic accord.
The group said 2017 will be “very different to previous years since the movement has prepared detailed and precise plans to carry out a number of high-quality important operations against the Iranian enemy state.”
Coordinated pipeline attacks could hinder Iran’s efforts to recoup cash lost under international sanctions. The country has boosted production to around 3.8 million barrels of oil a day since the deal.
Iran has faced low-level unrest from Kurds in its northwest, the Baluch in its east and Arabs in its south since the 1979 revolution. In recent months, however, such attacks have grown in scale. Iran in June announced breaking up what it called one of the “biggest terrorist plots” ever on Iranian soil by extremists.
Separately, the chief prosecutor of Tehran has revealed that there are as many as 70 spies serving sentences in the Iranian capital’s prisons, far more than what had been estimated.
The 70 convicts had “offered intelligence to enemies in various fields including atomic, military, political, social and cultural,” Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said, quoted by the Mizan Online news website.
Dolatabadi did not name the countries alleged to have recruited the spies.
Only a handful of cases of people charged with espionage had been made public in the country prior to his comments, which were published late Tuesday.
Among them are two Iranian-American dual nationals.
In October, business consultant Siamak Namazi and his 80-year-old father Baquer were sentenced to 10 years in prison for “espionage and collaboration with the American government.” The father, a former employee of the UN children’s fund UNICEF, was arrested when he returned to Iran to seek Siamak’s release, a few months after his arrest.
The United States has demanded the release of the Namazis and has also expressed concerns about reports of the “declining health” of Baquer Namazi.
Nezar Zaka, a Lebanese national, was found guilty of “numerous deep links to the US military intelligence community” and handed a 10-year sentence on the same day as the Namazis, along with three Iranians. They have been identified as Farhad Abd-Saleh, Kamran Ghaderi and Alireza Omidvar.