French Police Detain Iranians to End Self-Immolation

Three more Iranians set themselves on fire on Thursday in European capitals to protest a crackdown on an exile group in France, while police in Paris detained nearly 100 people to prevent further attempts at self-immolation (search).

One woman died Thursday from injuries suffered when she set herself on fire in Paris a day earlier, judicial officials said on condition of anonymity.

A total of seven Iranians have set themselves on fire in Paris and other cities since raids Tuesday on the French offices of the Mujahedeen Khalq (search), which fiercely opposes the Muslim clerical government in Iran.

The sweep Tuesday was aimed at preventing attacks by the group on Iranian diplomatic missions in Europe and elsewhere, France's counterintelligence chief said Wednesday in the government's most detailed explanation yet for the raids.

Two Mujahedeen Khalq members set themselves afire Thursday in front of the French Embassy in Rome to protest the crackdown. Another set himself ablaze in Bern, Switzerland, after failing in an attempt the day before. The three were severely injured.

Maryam Rajavi (search), a co-leader of the Mujahedeen Khalq who was among 26 people still detained in France after Tuesday's raids, also urged protesters not to resort to suicidal methods.

"I want to ask all of you now to refrain from self-immolation," a statement released by the organization Thursday quoted her as saying. "Otherwise, I will become more concerned and aggrieved than I already am."

Also Thursday, police detained 94 Iranians gathered near the Iranian Embassy and elsewhere in Paris who were demanding that other members of the group held by authorities be set free.

Paris Police Chief Jean-Paul Proust on Wednesday banned demonstrations by the group "given these suicidal acts," and warned protesters would be arrested.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said in an interview published Thursday in the newspaper Le Monde that the raids on the Iranian exile group were "in our national interest."

The police operation was aimed at "dismantling the nerve center of an organization qualified as terrorist by the European Union," he said.

The organization also has been blacklisted by the United States.

Police initially detained more than 150 members of the Mujahedeen Khalq. Authorities continue to hold only 26 of them, including Maryam Rajavi, wife of the organization's chief Massoud Rajavi (search) and the group's "president-elect" in a future Iranian government.

According to French law, she and the 25 others must be set free by Saturday — four days after being taken in — or brought before a judge to be informed of charges.

Police found $8 million to $9 million in cash during their raids on 13 Mujahedeen Khalq sites, including their headquarters at Auvers-Sur-Oise, north of Paris.

French counterintelligence chief Pierre de Bousquet de Florian said the group was transforming the walled compound in Auvers-Sur-Oise into "an operational center for terrorism."

He said attacks had been envisaged against Iranian diplomatic missions in Europe, but not in France.

The Mujahedeen Khalq vehemently denied the "absolutely false claims" of the DST chief.

A statement by group spokesman Ali Safavi said European countries "know fully well that the (Mujahedeen Khalq) has never been involved in such actions in the past 22 years and that all of their activities have been peaceful and consistent with laws in Europe."

The Mujahedeen Khalq's raided Auvers-Sur-Oise compound had for years been guarded around the clock by French police.

The Mujahedeen have been based in France since shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the Iranian monarchy and replaced it with a clerical state.