October 13, 2016 - 1:07 AM
TEHRAN, Iran - Iran broke up an Islamic State plan to bomb commemorations marking the Shiite religious mourning period of Ashoura, state media reported, the latest alleged militant plot to target the country.
Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi as saying several foreign nationals were detained with some 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of explosives. State television also reported the arrests.
Alavi said late Wednesday the suspects planned to attack Ashoura events in Iran's southern Fars province. Ashoura marks the death of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq in the 7th century.
Alavi referred to the suspects as "takfiri terrorists," a term used by Iranian officials to describe militant Sunni Muslim fundamentalists like the Islamic State group.
"Intelligence Ministry agents, with the co-operation of other security forces, succeeded to defuse one of the anti-security plots of the 'takfiri' terrorist groups and prevent an inhuman crime in the ceremonies," he said.
There was no other information immediately released, though the arrest of foreigners on such charges is rare. Iran has helped Shiite militias fighting against the Islamic State group in Iraq, while also supporting embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Alavi blamed Iran's foreign "enemies" for helping the Ashoura bombing suspects, without elaborating.
Iran in recent months has announced an increasing number of thwarted militant attacks. In June, Iran said it broke up one of the "biggest terrorist plots" ever on its soil by Sunni extremists planning bombings in Tehran and elsewhere during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Iran increasingly has warned of possible militant assaults targeting the country, which hasn't seen large-scale attacks since the 1980s. Recently though, Iran has faced increased attacks from Kurdish separatists. Arabs in its southern, oil-rich region and Baluch militants also launch occasional attacks.
News from © The Associated Press, 2016