From a firecracker to a grenade

Reports of assassination attempt against Ahmadinejad discounted.

By ABE SELIG, AP
August 5, 2010 01:08
4 minute read.
 IRANIAN PRESIDENT Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (center) arrives yesterday in Hamedan, 340 km. southwest of T

Ahmadinejad crowd 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

A conservative Iranian Web site called it a hand grenade.

Other news reports said it was a firecracker. The only certain outcome of Wednesday’s reports surrounding a possible assassination attempt on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was that he survived.

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Ahmadinejad was reportedly attacked as his convoy drove toward a sports arena in the town of Hamedan, where he was scheduled to make a speech.

The source of the attack differed, according to the various media reporting the incident. The Iranian Web site Khabaronline.ir said Ahmadinejad had escaped an attempt on his life after a handmade grenade exploded near his convoy, but Teheran state TV denied the report.

The semiofficial Fars news agency said a handmade grenade had been thrown at the path where the president and his entourage had been, but only after they had left the site.

The government-owned Borna news agency said somebody threw a firecracker after the convoy had passed, while the semiofficial Mehr news agency called it a handmade percussion grenade.

A photo from the semiofficial Isna news agency showed smoke dozens of meters away from the convoy, which was surrounded by people. It did not elaborate on the source of the smoke.

Following the incident, Ahmadinejad delivered his speech as planned, and it was broadcast live on state television.

He made no mention of an attack, focusing instead on the country’s nuclear program.

He reiterated his hard line regarding Western demands that Iran halt its nuclear activities.

“It will be one of your big mistakes if you think you, resorting to lies and hue and cry, are able to achieve something and we will give you any concession,” Ahmadinejad said at the Hamedan stadium.

One person was arrested in connection with the attack, the Web site reported, adding that Ahmadinejad’s car had been about 100 m. from the blast. It said there was no information on whether anyone was injured.

“The explosion caused a lot of smoke,” the report said.

Press TV, the government’s main English-language broadcast arm, said an informed source in Ahmadinejad’s office vehemently denied the reports, insisting that “no such attack had happened.”

Ahmadinejad, whose popularity at home is waning amid a faltering economy and tightened UN and Western sanctions over Teheran’s nuclear program, regularly tours the countryside to deliver speeches to grassroots supporters.

Hamedan, 340 km. west of Teheran, is not known as a restive area but is close to the Kurdish area of Iran and has witnessed occasional clashes between Kurdish rebels and security forces over the years.

During another speech on Monday, Ahmadinejad said that Israel had sent agents to assassinate him, but he gave no details.

The accusation came a day after another conservative Iranian Web site, Mashreghnews.ir, reported that security forces had detained a terrorist group in Teheran that planned to assassinate Iranian officials. It linked the group to Kurdish separatists.

In 2005, bandits reportedly killed a bodyguard of Ahmadinejad during his visit to the restive Sistan-Baluchistan province in southeastern Iran. However, the president had left the province before the attack occurred.

Experts on Iran said they viewed Wednesday’s attack – or at least the reports of it – as a possible ploy by Saudi Arabia, whose Al-Arabiya news channel broke the story.

“Ahmadinejad is not necessarily popular, but this does not appear to be a real assassination attempt,” Israeli Iran expert Meir Javedanfar, who together with Yossi Melman wrote a biography of Ahmadinejad titled The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

“It seems that this was a firecracker, and then Al-Arabiya reported that it was a bomb, and then someone in Iran wrote that it was a grenade,” he said.

“So, if the Saudis did this on purpose, meaning they broke the story on purpose and basically jumped the gun, then it could be for two reasons,” Javedanfar continued.

“One reason could have been to have a scoop, but the second reason could have been to make Ahmadinejad look unpopular.

Even though he is unpopular, the Saudis are Iran’s No. 1 enemy in the Middle East, and they would have an interest in making him look like a weak president.

“Let’s look at the facts here,” Javedanfar said. “He was on his way from an airport to a sports stadium when this happened, but afterward, he continued on with the speech. If this had been a real assassination attempt, they would have turned around and taken him back to Teheran.”

“There are of course people who want to assassinate Ahmadinejad within in Iran,” he continued. “But in terms of whether they can do this, to be honest, we don’t know. He’s not short of enemies in Iran, but this does not look like a real attempt.”


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