Hardline Iran Group Announces More Suicide Attackers
A hardline Iranian group announced the creation of a new "battalion" of "martyrdom seekers" -- or suicide attackers -- ready to carry out operations against targets including Israel and author Salman Rushdie. The group, called the Committee for the Glorification of Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement, made the announcement at Tehran's main cemetery where hundreds of supporters had gathered. READ MORE
"Every six months we sign up volunteers. Now we have 55,000 of them. Then we choose the volunteers and divide them up into battalions," spokesman Mohammad Mohammadi told AFP.
The latest to get three months of training to be "ready for death", he explained, was battalion number five which numbered 500 people. Mohammadi said 30 percent of all volunteers were women.
The group insists it is independent, although it frequently appears at regime-sponsored events.
Nevertheless, the group has largely been dismissed by observers -- and played down by many Iranian officials -- as a way for ordinary Iranians to symbolically vent their anger at Israel and the West.
When volunteers sign up to join the group, they can choose to attack British author Salman Rushdie, who sentenced to death by Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 over his book "The Satanic Verses," or join an operation against Israel or foreign invaders.
"I want to defend Islam, so I signed up for all three," enthused one volunteer, 27-year-old Meghdad Hamedinia. "All the American presidents are rascals. I'll give my life for Islam."
Iran is currently under mounting international pressure over its disputed nuclear energy programme, seen in the West as a cover for weapons development. The US has also not ruled out the military option.
On 22-year-old female volunteer, who was wearing the all-black and all-covering chador, said she was also "ready to go to Palestine".
"According to our religion, everywhere where Muslims are oppressed, we have to go and help them," said the would-be suicide attacker, who preferred not to give her name.