Iran says it has detained the leader of a California-based militant group that is accused of being behind a deadly attack on a mosque in 2008.
Iran’s intelligence ministry claims Jamshid Sharmahd is the head of “Tondor”, the militant wing of the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, an opposition monarchist group based in the US.
It is not clear how the California-based 65 year old, who Iran claims directed armed and terrorist acts in Iran from the US, was arrested.
The 2008 bombing killed 14 people and wounded more than 200.
The intelligence ministry called his arrest a “complex operation” without elaborating further. They later published a photo on their website of a blindfolded man they say is Mr Sharmahd.
The US State Department said that Mr Shamahd had previously been targeted for assassination.
The alleged Iranian government operative who was said to have hired a hit man to kill Mr Sharmahd was due to face trial in California but disappeared in 2010, likely having returned to Iran.
“The Iranian regime has a long history of detaining Iranians and foreign nationals on spurious charges,” the State Department said in a statement. “We urge Iran to be fully transparent and abide by all international legal standards.”
The intelligence ministry did not say what charges Mr Shamahd would face.
Iran hanged three men convicted of the same bombing in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, saying they had ties to the monarchist exile group.
They also hanged two other convicted members of the group in 2010, who had "confessed to obtaining explosives and planning to assassinate officials".
A report on Iranian state television also claimed that Mr Sharmahd’s group was behind a 2010 bombing at Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s mausoleum in Tehran, which injured several people. The broadcast also said that Tondar had planned to blow up a dam in Shiraz and use “cyanide bombs” at Tehran book fair.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Abbis Mousavi, criticised the US for allowing Mr Shamahd to live there.
The US “must be responsible for supporting terrorist groups which are inside of this country and carry out and lead terrorist acts against the Iranian people,” state TV quoted him as saying.