Iran denies 3 senior al-Qaida figures based in the country


TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran on Tuesday denied claims by Washington that three senior al-Qaida figures are based in the Persian country, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi was quoted as saying that Iran doesn’t have “any information about their presence on its soil.” He also reiterated Iran’s commitment to fighting terrorism.

The Obama administration last week slapped sanctions on the three, saying they are based in Iran, which it accused of helping transfer money and fighters from South Asia to the Mideast. The move froze any assets they may have in U.S. jurisdictions and barred Americans from doing business with them.

The three — Saudi national Faisal Jassim Mohammed al-Amri al-Khalidi, Egyptian national Yisra Muhammad Ibrahim Bayumi and Algerian national Abu Bakr Muhammad Muhammad Ghumayn — were identified as “specially designated global terrorists.”

According to the U.S. Treasury, al-Khalidi is an al-Qaida military commission chief and a former battalion commander who had ties with the Pakistani Taliban. Bayumi is the group’s liaison with Iranian authorities and Ghumayn is in charge of al-Qaida members who are living in Iran, the Treasury said.

It did not provide more details on their whereabouts in Iran.

Ghasemi, the Iranian spokesman, urged the United States to share its “precise information” about the three in order to “better combat terrorism.”

The predominantly Shiite Iran, a major ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and also Iraq’s Shiite-led government, is fighting Sunni extremist groups such as the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

It is also fighting several militant groups inside the country, describing them as “extremist Wahhabi” organizations. Wahhabism is an ultraconservative Sunni ideology practiced predominantly in Saudi Arabia, which the Islamic State group has incorporated into its apocalyptic beliefs.

In June, Iran announced it had broken up one of the “biggest terrorist plots” ever on its soil by Sunni extremists who were planning bombings in Tehran and elsewhere in the country. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Iranian capital has not seen a major militant attack.

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