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Politics

Iran’s Incoherent Scenario For Alleged Shiraz Bombing Plot

December 19, 2022
Solmaz Eikdar
6 min read
The five Iranian athletes are accused of planning a bombing in the southern city of Shiraz.
The five Iranian athletes are accused of planning a bombing in the southern city of Shiraz.
One the athletes was arrested on the night of the “terrorist” attack on Shahcheragh Shrine in Shiraz.
One the athletes was arrested on the night of the “terrorist” attack on Shahcheragh Shrine in Shiraz.

On October 26, as thousands of protesters across Iran marked the 40th day since the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police, official news agencies reported a deadly attack on a Shia shrine in the southern city of Shiraz.

Fars news agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, published a short news that did not attract a lot of attention: "A person disguised as a dumpster diver who tried to bomb the busy street of Ma'ali Abad Shiraz on Wednesday night, after the terrorist incident in Shahcheragh Shrine, was arrested by the [IRGC] Intelligence Organization of Fars Province. The bomb was neutralized."

The news was part of a fictitious scenario built by the Islamic Republic against five athletes from Fars Province, which Shiraz is the capital of: Dena Sheybani, Mohammed Khiveh, Eshragh Najafabadi, Amir Arslan Mahdavi and Hessam Mousavi.

Five Athletes blindfolded and handcuffed

Over the past decade, the authorities of the Islamic Republic have responded to all protests by using extreme violence against them and by arguing that Iranians were enjoying “security" and that the country could “become Syria."

The Shahcheragh incident could not be used to scare Iranians over the ongoing nationwide protests because of its lack of "conclusiveness." It also raised the issue that "if we don't have freedom and prosperity, we don't have security either."

That is why the official government media, despite blaming the ISIS extremist group for the incident, accused the protesters. Keyhan newspaper described the demonstrators as "complements of ISIS,’ Tasnim claimed the ISIS attacked Shahcheragh in support of the protesters, and Jahan Ara radio said that the security forces "did not have the ability to confront ISIS" because they were busy with the unrest.

Meanwhile, another scenario was being prepared in Shiraz to link protesters with terrorist operations.

Tasnim published footage showing a woman and four men with blindfolds and handcuffs admitting to planning to detonate a bomb in front of the Fars Governorate building in Shiraz.

The news agency only gave the first names of the suspects and their identities have not been officially confirmed. However, their first names and appearances match those of five recently arrested athletes from Shiraz.

The woman named Dena in the video is said to be responsible for "propaganda." She said in the video, "In the first days of the protests, we gathered at a friend's house and decided to detonate a bomb somewhere in the city. This bomb was supposed to be detonated from a distance to create chaos in the city."

Dena Sheybani, a snowboard instructor, was arrested on November 10 in Gheshm and transferred to Shiraz.

Mohammed, who was presented as the person responsible for making the bomb, said he "was interested in robotics" and claimed he had received a major in this subject. The man said he had bought a remote control to connect to the bomb and trigger an explosion "with one click."

Mohammad Khiveh is a mountaineer who was arrested on November 1 in Yasouj and taken to Shiraz Intelligence Department.

Eshragh, the alleged leader of the bombing team, said in his purported confession that he once tested a bomb at home "with the same remote control."

Eshraq Najafabadi, a cyclist and former member of the mountaineer national team, was arrested in Shiraz on November 9.

Arslan was described as the team’s main bomber. He can be seen saying that he went to Ehsan Square dressed as a dumpster diver in order to "not attract attention."

Amir Arslan Mahdavi, a snowboard instructor, is the suspect who was reportedly arrested on Ma'ali Abad Street on October 26.

Hessam is introduced as "one of the bombing planners" and "admits" that he had chosen Ehsan Square as the bombing site because it "had the most cameras and is opposite the governorate."

Hessam Mousavi, a climbing instructor, was arrested in Isfahan on November 30 and transferred to Shiraz.

Incoherences in the scenario

There is only one government institution on Ehsan Square: the Social Security Department. Fars Governorate, however, is on Imam Hossein Square, at least 15 minutes away by car, when there is little traffic.

Iran’s Incoherent Scenario For Alleged Shiraz Bombing Plot

It is not clear how the alleged bombers did not know the two squares were so far apart and why they would bomb a government building outside office hours.

The next unanswered question is why the "bombers" did not escape after the Shahcheragh incident and Mahdavi’s arrest. There is a lapse of one month between his arrest and the moment when the last alleged member of the group, Mousavi, was detained.

In the video published by Tasmin, which had the logo of the IRGC Intelligence Department No. 114, a person in a fireman's uniform said the bomb blast would have had “a radius of 20 meters."

 In Iran, the fire department does not have bomb experts. The Special Forces and the IRGC are among the institutions that have units able to “check and neutralize" explosives. The person who made the remarks is not qualified to comment on the bomb, even if he is really a firefighter.

The bomb was actually not a bomb

 In the video on the forced confessions of the athletes, the designers of the scenario of the foiled bombing plot also provided information about how the alleged bomb was made.

Najafabadi prepared the "glitter and red lead," which are used to make firecrackers and can be bought at any paint store, Mahdavi pumped "seven liters" of gasoline from his car, and Khiveh bought a remote control.

Every year, children and teenagers make firecrackers with these simple ingredients for the Chahar-Shanbeh Suri celebrations. Firecrackers, except for the loud sound, can cause the windows of nearby houses to vibrate. These firecrackers are not ignited with a remote control, but they explode when thrown on a wall or the ground.

It is not clear for what purpose the gasoline was for.

Most importantly, Esmaeil Mohebipour, the Deputy Political Security Officer of Fars Governorate, said on October 28 that on the night of the Shahcheragh incident members of the paramilitary Basij force “arrested a person who was carrying flammable liquids and it is suspected that they wanted to set a limited fire or explosion somewhere else, but we did not find materials related to the bombing." The video was later removed from the Television archives, but copies of it can still be found on the web.

Missing athletes from the file

Simultaneously with the arrests of the five athletes, two other athletes from Shiraz were taken to custody and another one went missing. Their fate caused increased concern after the forced confessions of their five colleagues were aired.

Issa Anvari is a mountain climbing instructor who was arrested in the city of Yasuj along with Khiveh and transferred to the Shiraz Intelligence Department. There is no information about his fate and the charges he is facing.

Rock climber Siamak Simkanpour was arrested at his workplace in Shiraz on November 2 and transferred to the local branch of the Ministry of Intelligence. There is no information about his whereabouts. The family is under strong pressure to not talk to the media about the climber's arrest.

Marjan Jangjou is said to have been missing since November 2, when the security forces raided her sports club in Ghalat area of Shiraz. Her friends say her relatives filed a complaint about her disappearance to the 9th branch of Shiraz Intelligence on November 29, but no one has given them a clear answer yet.

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