Iran hardliners register volunteers for suicide raids
TEHRAN, Apr 16 (Reuters) Some 200 Iranians have volunteered in the past few days to carry out ''martyrdom missions'' against U S and British interests if Iran is attacked over its nuclear programme, a hardline group said today.
The United States and other Western nations accuse Iran of seeking to master enrichment technology to build atomic weapons, a charge Iran denies. Washington says it wants a diplomatic solution, but has not ruled out a military option.
Mohammad Ali Samadi, spokesman for the Committee for the Commemoration of Martyrs of the Global Islamic Campaign, said fresh fears over a possible U S attack on Iran's nuclear sites helped attract volunteers during its latest recruitment drive.
''Because of the recent threats, we have started to register more volunteers since Friday,'' Samadi told Reuters by telephone.
''Some 200 people have registered to carry out operations against our enemies. America and Britain are definitely considered enemies.'' Chanting ''Death to America'' and ''Nuclear technology is our right'', volunteers registered their names at the former American Embassy in southern Tehran today.
They signed a document called ''Registration form for martyrdom-seeking operations'' and pledged to ''defend the Islamic Republic's interests''.
''We will give a good lesson to those who dare to attack our country,'' said Ali, a 25-year-old masked volunteer, after filling out registration form.
When asked why he had covered his face, Ali said: ''I do not want to be recognised when travelling abroad to harm American and British interests.''
The Committee for the Commemoration of Martyrs of the Global Islamic Campaign, which says it has no affiliation with the government, was formed in 2004. Since then Samadi said some 52,000 people have signed up to be involved in possible attacks. The Sunday Times of London, quoting unnamed Iranian officials, reported Iran had 40,000 trained suicide bombers prepared to strike western targets if Iran is attacked.
''The main force, named the Special Unit of Martyr Seekers in the Revolutionary Guards, was first seen last month when members marched in a military parade,'' the report said.
But Samadi denied the report.
''The Revolutionary Guards have no links to martyrdom-seeking operations. We are the only martyrdom seeking group in Iran,'' he said. ''And we are an independent group.'' No Iranians are thought to have directly executed suicide bombings in recent years. But the United States has accused Iran of being a state sponsor of terrorism.
In today's adition of New York Times a former White House counterterrorism expert said Iran's response to any U S military attack would be to use ''its terrorist network to strike American targets around the world''.
''Iran has forces at its command far superior to anything al Qaeda was ever able to field,'' wrote former White House counterterror chief Richard Clarke and former State Department official Steven Simon.
The ''martyrdom'' registration coincided with a conference on the Palestinian cause. Iran has refused to recognise Israel and supports anti-Israeli groups like Hamas and Hizbollah.
Inside the embassy, the walls were decorated with pictures of Palestinian suicide bombers. Videos of Israeli army attacks on Palestinians were shown on a wide screen. Books and CDs on the Palestinian uprising were also for sale.
In 1979, the then-American embassy was seized and its staff were taken hostage by militant students in 1979. The 52 hostages were freed after 444 days in captivity.