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Ringleader of separatist group behind 2018 Ahvaz terrorist attack appears in court

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Farajollah Chaab, the ringleader of the SMLA terrorist group, looks at the portraits of victims during a court hearing in Tehran, Iran, on January 18, 2022. (Photo by Mizan Online news agency)

The ringleader of a separatist group behind the 2018 deadly terrorist attack in the Iranian city of Ahvaz, Khuzestan’s provincial capital, has appeared in court for the first time since his arrest.

Habib Farajollah Chaab, also known as Habib Asyud, the ringleader of the SMLA terrorist group, stood trial at branch 26 of Tehran’s Islamic Revolution Court on Tuesday.

According to an indictment, he is charged with “managing and heading the SMLA terrorist group as well as planning and carrying out numerous bombing and terrorist operations in Khuzestan Province and destroying public property in order to counter the Islamic Republic of Iran’s establishment.”

He is also charged with bombing operations at the Housing and Urban Development Office, Planning and Budget Organization, and Department of Environment in Ahvaz.

Chaab’s other charges include bombing operations targeting the governorates of Dezful and Abadan and oil pipelines in the cities of Abadan, Ahvaz, and Mahshahr, and also planning a bombing attack against Ahvaz’s Judiciary office.

The SMLA, which is directly supported by foreign intelligence agencies, has been pushing to separate Khuzestan — home to the country’s Arab population — from the rest of Iran through engaging in an armed conflict against the Iranian government.

In September 2018, it claimed responsibility for an attack on a military parade in Ahvaz that killed 25 people, including members of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and civilian bystanders, and injured 70 others.

Chaab was arrested in November 2020 on the back of a set of “specialized and combined measures” by Iranian intelligence forces.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the prosecutor's representative said the SMLA's operations are designed with the Saudi backing in Sweden and Denmark, where the group's ringleaders are residing.

European and Arab countries have failed to extradite the terrorists to the Islamic Republic despite a red notice issued against them, he noted.

“In addition to intimidating and threatening Iranian citizens, SMLA elements call for violence in their accounts on social networks.”

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