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Monday, 4 March, 2002, 22:58 GMT
Iranian site seeks suicide bombers
President Khatami
The group's aim may be to discredit President Khatami
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By Sadeq Saba
BBC Eurasia analyst

A hardline Islamic group in Iran has vowed to relaunch its website recruiting volunteers to carry out worldwide suicide attacks.

The group's leader, Hamid Ustad, has vowed to start a new site after its previous one was shut down by an internet service provider in Canada.

The organisation launched its website two weeks ago after President Bush denounced Iran as part of an axis of evil

The website was launched two weeks ago in response to President Bush's denunciation of Iran as forming an "axis of evil" with Iraq and North Korea.

The shadowy group, known as Ansar-e Hezbollah, invited prospective martyrs to register by internet for suicide attacks in the event of a US military strike against Iran.

Ansar-e Hezbollah is one of the most extreme Islamic groups in Iran, known for its ruthlessness in suppressing internal political dissent.

It is suspected of having links with hardliners in the Iranian leadership and is openly against President Khatami's reform programme.

In relaunching the website, the shadowy organisation advised that Hezbollah forces would respond to any attack on Iran by striking against US and Israeli interests throughout the world.

Americans blamed

It is not clear by whom or how the site has been shut down, but the leader of the group has blamed the Americans and promised to reconstruct the site very soon.

President George Bush
President Bush described Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil"
There is no information on whether any volunteers responded to this internet advertisement before it was shut down last Friday.

It is more likely that the group intended to embarrass President Khatami's government, which has denounced all kind of terrorism.

Similar threats to attack American interests have been made by other Iranian hardliners.

Reformists were angry when a senior commander in Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard warned that oil installations in the Gulf would be attacked to confront any possible strike against Iran.

Although the internet activities of Ansar-e Hezbollah are against the official Iranian policy, it appears that Mr Khatami is unable to take any action against the group.

See also:

05 Feb 02 | Middle East
Iran divided over US criticism
08 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iran
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