Iranian intelligence officials have broken up one of the “biggest terrorist” plots ever planned to target Tehran and other provinces in the Islamic Republic, the country’s state media reported.
The reports quote the country’s Intelligence Ministry as saying that it has arrested several suspects in the plot to bomb the capital and other provinces, seizing bombs and ammunition during the operation.
The Intelligence Ministry statement, read live on Iranian state television and carried across the country’s news agencies, had little detail.
The announcement comes as Iran finds itself battling the Islamic State group while also supporting Syria’s embattled President Bashar Assad in his country’s long, bloody civil war.
Several suspects have been arrested and are under interrogation over the plot after agents seized ammunition and bombs, state media said.
The semi-official Fars and ISNA news agencies quoted Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, as saying the attack was timed to hit during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency, citing the Intelligence Ministry, said the attack was supposed to come on the anniversary of the death of the Prophet Muhammad’s wife, Khadija, which was commemorated in small ceremonies across Iran on Thursday.
The report didn’t identify those arrested, though it called them “takfiris,” a derogatory term in both Arabic and Farsi referring to Muslims who accuse others of being “nonbelievers.”
Iranian authorities often refer to followers of the Sunni militant Islamic State group as “takfiris,” though it isn’t clear if this case involved the extremist group that holds territory in Iraq and Syria.
Shi’ite power Iran has been helping both the Syrian and the Iraqi government in their battles against the Islamic State group.
IRNA, however, called those involved in the plot “Wahhabi takfiris” in its report in Farsi on the arrests. Wahhabism is an ultraconservative school of Islam practiced predominantly in Saudi Arabia.
Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have frayed following the kingdom’s execution of a prominent Shi’ite cleric in January and subsequent attacks by protesters on Saudi diplomatic posts in Iran. The kingdom cut diplomatic relations with Tehran following those attacks.
Iran recently announced it would not be sending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj pilgrimage, as it said the kingdom did not meet Iran’s requests for better security for Iranian pilgrims.
The hajj pilgrimage is required of all able-bodied Muslims once in their lifetime.