Iran arrests groups planning attacks on pilgrims

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians travel to the Iraqi city of Kerbala each year where remains of Imam Hussein are believed to be entombed. (AFP)
Updated 23 October 2018

Iran arrests groups planning attacks on pilgrims

  • Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi did not specify when and where the arrests had taken place
  • The militant groups were allegedly planning to attack during the annual pilgrimage of Arbaeen
LONDON: Iran said on Tuesday it had arrested 15 militants planning attacks on Shiite Muslims making an annual pilgrimage to Iraq.
Hundreds of thousands of Iranians travel to the Iraqi city of Kerbala each year for the ritual of Arbaeen, which marks the end of a 40-day mourning period for the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, Imam Hussein.
Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi, visiting the Iran-Iraq border area, was quoted by state television as saying that “three terrorist groups that wanted to target Arbaeen mourners were arrested.”
Tasnim news agency quoted Alavi as saying the arrests took place in southwestern Khuzestan province in recent days, and 15 people were arrested.
“The detainees confessed that they wanted to carry out suicide attacks to kill the pilgrims,” Alavi said.
He gave no indication when the attacks were due to take place, but the culmination of the pilgrimage this year falls at the end of October.
Shiites are considered apostates by hard-line Sunni Islamist insurgents in Iraq. Armed Sunni groups in Iran have also increased attacks on military and civilian targets in recent months.
Iran stepped up security in border areas after five gunmen killed 25 people at a military parade in the city of Ahvaz, in Khuzestan province, in September.
Daesh militants and an Iranian ethnic Arab opposition movement claimed responsibility for the attack, but neither claim provided convincing evidence.
At least 10 Iranian security personnel including Revolutionary Guards were kidnapped on the border with Pakistan last week. A Sunni separatist group said it had seized them as revenge for the oppression of Sunni Muslims.

Lebanon bank deposits up 4% on year

Updated 15 November 2018

Lebanon bank deposits up 4% on year

BEIRUT: Bank deposits in Lebanon have risen by 4 percent on the year, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said on Thursday, and he maintained his economic growth outlook for 2018 at 2 percent.

In July Salameh had said he expected bank deposits to grow by more than 5 percent in 2018.

In October the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) halved their growth outlook to one percent for Lebanon, where public debt is about 150 percent of gross domestic product.

“Lebanese banks have succeeded in maintaining foreign exchange inflows into their sector supported by (the central bank),” Salmeh said in a televised speech at a Beirut economic conference.

With growth low and traditional sources of foreign exchange — tourism, real estate and foreign investment — undermined by years of regional tension, Lebanon increasingly relies on dollars expatriate Lebanese deposit in local banks.

The banks buy government debt, which finances the country’s eye-watering public debt and twin deficits.

The central bank also brings in dollars through complex financial operations with local banks to boost foreign currency reserves needed to defend the Lebanese pound’s peg to the dollar.

However, deposits have been growing at a slower rate since war broke out in neighboring Syria in 2011, and deposit growth rates are closely watched.