TEHRAN — Gunmen ambushed a car carrying a lawmaker and a local governor on Sunday in Iran’s restive Kurdish region, state news media reported. Both men were wounded, and the driver and a veterinarian traveling with them were killed.
The lawmaker, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a member of a key foreign council in Iran’s Parliament, escaped with minor injuries, according to the Mizan news agency.
Mr. Falahatpisheh and the others were traveling in a sport utility vehicle near Iran’s border with Iraq, apparently without security forces protecting them. As they were driving near the county of Dalahu, four men fired on their car. The governor, Faramarz Asghari, was hit several times and was reported to be in critical condition.
In recent weeks, Iran’s Kurdish regions have seen an upsurge in violence, with several clashes erupting between Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Kurdish fighters belonging to the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan and Pejak, an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, better known as P.K.K. According to official reports and statements by the groups, dozens of people have been killed on each side, although none of those claims could be verified.
Iranian security forces have also been involved in an increased number of skirmishes in Iran’s southeast with Sunni groups seeking independence.
The attack on Sunday occurred a day after a member of the Saudi royal family addressed a rally in Paris for an Iranian opposition group, Mujahedeen Khalq. Prince Turki al-Faisal, who was both a Saudi intelligence chief and the kingdom’s ambassador to the United States, lauded the militant organization, which is outlawed in Iran and has called for the overthrow of the Islamic republic.
In his speech, Prince Turki called on the organization’s leader, Maryam Rajavi, to “rid Iran of the Khomeinist cancer,” a reference to the founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The Saudi Arabian news media widely covered the address. Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the United States House of Representatives, was also present.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have long accused each other of supporting groups opposing them. Saudi Arabia has denounced Iran’s support of Shiite groups in Yemen and Iraq, while Iran maintains that Saudi Arabia is the main sponsor of the Islamic State. The Iranian government also accuses the Saudis of aiding armed resistance groups in its border regions with money and weapons.
On Sunday, Iran said the presence of Prince Turki at the rally meant that Riyadh was now openly supporting the Mujahedeen Khalq. Saddam Hussein gave the group refuge in Iraq, but after the United States invasion, a pro-Iranian government emerged in Baghdad and disarmed the group, expelling many of its members from the country.
“His speech showed that Riyadh has always provided extensive financial and security support for terrorism in every possible shape,” the semiofficial ISNA agency quoted Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, a diplomat specializing in Arab affairs, as saying in a reaction to Prince Turki’s speech. Saudi Arabia, he added, should “play a constructive role in the region by ending its open and secret support for terrorism.”
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(via NY Times)