FBI agents in Los Angeles and Washington are investigating a possible link between the July 22 murder of Iranian exile Ale Tabatabai and Thursday night's shooting of an Iranian student outside a Los Angeles home where Iranian dissidents were gathered.
In both cases, the victims were associated with groups opposed to the rule of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Both attacks took place at the homes of prominent dissidents and both were preceded by telephoned threats, according to the investigating officers.
"Normally, a shooting like this would be a local matter," said the FBI's Los Angeles spokesman E.V. Benavidez. "But because of a possible connection" between the two shootings, the investigations are being coordinated, he added.
Thus far, Benavidez said, no evidence had been discovered establishing a clear connection between the wounding of the Iranian student in Los Angeles and the killing of Tabatabai in the doorway of his Bethesda home.
The 19-year-old student, who is not being identified by police, reportedly is in stable condition at a Los Angeles hospital. He was shot once in the stomach by a black man dressed in a black hooded jogging suit, police said.
Immediately before the shooting, the student had been sitting in a car outside the home of Cambyse Shah-Rais, head of a Los Angeles-based anti-Khomeini group. The gunman had been prowling around the house, the student told police.
The jogger confronted the student and fired five shots, hitting him once in the stomach.
"I feel this man was hired to do harm to me or some of my guests," said Shah-Rais, leader of anti-Khomeini group. "Relatives [in Iran] called me yesterday and said tht Iranian television network showed a video tape of me and said I was the one handling the Washington demostration and making an anti-Khomeini speech in front of the White House. The broadcast said, 'Fortunately, the forces of Islam who love Khomeini have put an end to his life and three others in Los Angeles.'"
Shah-Rais said he doubted that the jogger simply wanted to rob him.
"A burglar would not come at 10:15 p.m. with two cars parked in front of the home and all the lights on," he said. "Laughter and joking could be heard inside the home. All the windows were open and you could see in from the outside."
According to Shah-Rais, he and others connected with anti-Khomeini organizations have been receiving threatening phone calls for some time, even before the assassination of Tabatabai in Washington and the Los Angeles shooting.
"There is an attempt being made either to get rid of us or to scare us enough to shut up," Shah-Rais said. "Some of us are definitely afraid. Shortly, I am going to change my home, but I will continue fighting Khomeini. We are not going to go underground."
Meanwhile, FBI agents in Washington and Baltimore are continuing their search for Daoud Salahuddin, also known as David Belfield, a 29-year-old Washington man who is charged with Tabatabai's murder.
Within a day of the murder, police and FBI agents arrested two other men who they say were involved in the assassination plot: 31-year-old postal carrier Tyrone Frazier, who allegedly lent Salahudding his postal jeep on the day of the assassination; and Horace Anthony Butler, who allegedly drove Frazier to Baltimore and back while the murder was being committed.
According to witnesses, a man dressed as a postal carrier knocked on the door of Tabatabi's Bethesda home, said he had two special delivery packages for the onetime Iranian press attache, then fatally wounded Tabatabi with a 9-mm pistol concealed behind a handful of mail.
Tabatabai, who had been organizing and anti-Khomeini march in a Washington, was a bitter and outspoken critic of the present regime in Iran.