Iranian group seeks British suicide bombers

The Committee for the Commemoration of Martyrs of the Global Islamic
Campaign, which claims to be independent but has the backing of the regime,
said it is targeting potential recruits in Britain because of the relative
ease with which UK passport-holders can enter Israel.

The claim came hours after nine people were killed by a suicide bomber in
Tel Aviv, and days after a prediction by the Iranian president, Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, that Israel would be blown away in a « storm ». President George
Bush refused to rule out a limited nuclear strike on Iranian nuclear
facilities.

Mohammad Samadi, a spokesman for the group, told the Guardian that striking
at Israel was the priority of his recruitment drive.

« The first target is Israel. For us, that is the battlefield, » he said.

« All the Jews are targets, whether military or civilian. It’s our land
and they are in the wrong place. It’s their duty to pay attention to
safety of their own families and move them away from the
battlefield, » he said.

Mr Samadi’s group was participating in a recruitment fair for « martyrdom
seekers » being held in the grounds of the former US embassy in Tehran.
Several hundred volunteers have signed up for missions in the past few days.

Volunteers attracted to his group were asked to complete forms specifying
whether they prefer to carry out operations against « the Quds occupiers »
[Israel], the British author Salman Rushdie – subject of a death sentence
passed by Iran’s late spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, over
The Satanic Verses – or « the occupiers of Islamic lands », the US and Britain.

Mr Samadi was standing at an exhibition stall festooned with portraits of
Palestinian suicide bombers, including pictures of the aftermaths of
attacks. It also featured a tribute to Rachel Corrie, the American peace
activist killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza three years ago. A
banner outside the fair read: « There is no voice higher than intifada. »
Nearby stood a mock model of the Statue of Liberty, with iron bars cut into
the torso to symbolise a prison cell.

The British embassy has called on the Iranian government to renounce
support for the group. A Foreign Office spokesman said: « We have
longstanding concerns at the support that Iran provides to groups
undermining peace in the Middle East through violence, including the
activities of this group. »

But western diplomats played down the significance of the group’s threat,
saying it was primarily a campaign to gather signatures of protest against
Israel rather than recruiting bombers. But the group’s pronouncements add
to the list of western indictments against Iran since the election last
year of Mr Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be wiped off the face
of the Earth.

While the committee claims to be independent it has previously been linked
with the Revolutionary Guards. It claims it has gathered 52,000 recruits –
of whom 30% are women – since forming two years ago. According to the
group, recruits are instructed in target planning and military discipline
before progressing to intensive urban guerrilla warfare training, involving
the use of bomb belts.

When asked how Iranian volunteers would get into Israel, Mr Samadi cited
the precedent of Asif Mohammed Hanif and Omar Sharif, two British Muslims
who attacked a bar in Tel Aviv, killing three Israelis, in 2003 after
entering Israel as tourists and then posing as peace activists. Hanif blew
himself up at the scene while Sharif fled, but was found drowned in the
Mediterranean.

« That shows that it has not been difficult getting into Israel, » he said.
« Do you think getting hold of a British passport for an Iranian citizen is
hard? Tens of passports are issued for Iranian asylum seekers in Britain
every day. There are hundreds of other ways available to us, such as
illegal entry [into Britain], fake passports, etc.

« Britain and other European countries have a lot of disaffected Muslims who
are ready. We understand the suspicion with which Britain, America and
other western countries regard their Muslim populations. We don’t condemn
them for this because we believe every Muslim has the potential to turn
into a bomb against the west. »

Mr Samadi said recruits would not be told to attack British cities. « With
the exception of Israel, we do not target civilians, » he said. « They would
definitely not be sent to carry out an attack on London unless it was to
kill Salman Rushdie. »

Israeli security analysts said there is no evidence that the group has been
directly linked to suicide bombings or other attacks in Israel.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, in a security council debate
about Monday’s Tel Aviv bombing, called Iranian threats against Israel a
« declaration of war ».

Robert Tait in Tehran and Ewen MacAskill


24/4/2006

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