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Assassination plot uncovered in Iran, Islamic militants arrested

TEHRAN, May 6 (AFP) - Twelve members of an Islamic militant group have been arrested for plotting to assassinate Iranian leaders, the official IRNA news agency reported Thursday, citing a senior judicial official.

"Members of the group were preparing a list of people to assassinate, including a number of Iranian figures," IRNA quoted Mohammad Niazi, a prosecutor for the Tehran military court, as saying.

Niazi, speaking Wednesday evening to a group of clerics in the holy city of Qom, said that 12 members of the Shiite Moslem fundamentalist group, Mahdiyoun, had been arrested including its leader.

The newspaper Iran News reported Thursday that the authorities had foiled an attempt on the life of influential former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani by a radical religious movement.

The assassination bid by the Mahdiyoun was "discovered and neutralised," the English-language daily reported, without giving any date or other details about the attack.

The authorites last month announced the arrest of Hassan Milani, the leader of the shadowy fundamentalist group, for a bombing here in January which left the head of Tehran's justice department, Ali Razini, severely injured.

The authorities accused the Mahdiyoun last month of responsibility for the attack which left Razini paralyzed and one other person dead.

The group, which has some 30 members, takes its name from the Mahdi, the twelfth imam, who is said to have disappeared at the age of five and whose reappearance will occur on the day the world has been cleansed of injustice and corruption.

Members of the group believe that the reappearance of the twelth imam "was not possible because certain people were in the way" and had to be eliminated, Niazi said.

Former president Rafsanjani, 65, one of the architects of the 1979 Islamic revolution and a close confidant of the republic's late founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was head of state from 1989 to 1997.

He remains a powerful figure as head of the state Expediency Council, which settles constitutional disputes, and he is the top advisor to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

While regarded as a guardian of the moderate wing, Rafsanjani has close ties with all political factions and is a key figure in Iranian politics.

Iran has been rocked in recent months by a series of deadly attacks against intellectuals as well as leading officials.

Top general Ali Sayad Shirazi, considered a national hero after commanding many of the ground assaults in the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, was slain in Tehran in April in an attack claimed by the main armed opposition group, the People's Mujahedeen.

Niazi has been heading the investigation into a series of murders of intellectuals and dissidents last year which were blamed on "rogue" members of the country's intelligence ministry.


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