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. Iranian 'martyrdom lovers' prepare to defend nuclear sites
TEHRAN (AFP) Aug 24, 2005
A new Iranian militia group calling itself the "Martyrdom Lovers" is preparing to stage its first manoeuvres aimed at defending the Islamic republic's nuclear sites from a US attack, a hardline paper said Wednesday.

The commander of the suicidal group, Mohammad Reza Jaffari, told the Parto Sokhan (Light of Speech) weekly that the forthcoming exercise was codenamed "Yes to Khamenei", in dedication to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"This will be the first manoeuvres of the martyrdom-seeking brigades," he said, adding the volunteers will "work on new tactics of how to defend the sensitive and strategic areas and how to destroy the hypothetical enemy by implementing a human shield."

"We will also work in on how each martyrdom seeker can blow up the enemies' machinery," he explained, without saying when or where the training programme would take place nor how many "Martyrdom Lovers" would be involved.

But he added that during previous group meetings in Arak, Isfahan, Natanz and Bushehr -- the sites of Iran's main nuclear facilities -- trainees were told that "if the United States makes a foolish move and attacks Iran then we will burn all their interests around the world and will not give them any opportunities to escape."

Washington accuses Iran of using an atomic energy drive as a cover for weapons development -- a charge the clerical regime here denies -- and US President George W. Bush has refused to rule out taking military action.

"The US should know that each martyrdom seeker is an atomic bomb," he told the paper, which had earlier this month carried an advertisement seeking people to join the group.

Parto Shokhan is published by an institute run by one of Islamic republic's most ultra-conservative ideologues, Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi -- a backer of Iran's new hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

It is not the first time hardline Iranians have called upon volunteers to register for suicide missions -- but the Iranian foreign ministry has repeatedly denied that they are officially supported by the regime and has also asserted such events are purely symbolic.

All rights reserved. 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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