January 4, 2017 / 12:45 PM / 7 months ago

Arab separatists in Iran say attacked pipelines in west, Tehran issues denial

DUBAI (Reuters) - Arab separatist militants in Iran said on Tuesday they had blown up two oil pipelines in coordinated attacks in the western Khuzestan region two days earlier, though this was subsequently denied by Iran's Interior Ministry.

The group, the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of al-Ahwaz, said on its website its armed wing had caused major damage and fuel losses in the attacks on Jan. 3 near the town of Omidiyeh and the port of Deylam.

However, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry told state television the reports were untrue.

Ahwazi Arabs are a minority in mainly ethnic Persian Iran, and some see themselves as under Persian occupation and want independence or autonomy. Separatist groups have carried out intermittent attacks for decades, including on oil installations.

Tehran denies there is discontent among its Arab minority and has blamed suggestions of there being any separatist sentiment on a foreign plot to seize the oil that lies beneath Iran's Gulf coastal territory.

In a statement posted on their Ahwazna.net website, the group said the first attack targeted the "Maroun" pipeline of the state-owned Aghajari Oil and Gas Production Company, while the second attack targeted pipelines from the Baharkan oilfield to Kharg Island.

Reporting by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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