Sunni rebels claim Iran suicide blasts, 39 dead

TEHRAN, (Reuters) – Two suicide bomb attacks killed  39 people outside a mosque during a Shi’ite religious ceremony  in southeastern Iran yesterday, a strike Jundollah rebels  said was retaliation for the execution of their leader in June.

In a statement on its website, the Sunni Muslim group said  it was responsible for the bombings outside the Imam Hussein  Mosque in Chabahar, which also wounded more than 100 people.

“At least 39 people were martyred after two suicide bombings  targeted Shi’ite mourners in front of a mosque in the town of  Chabahar,” Fariborz Ayati Firouzabadi, head of the Coroner’s  office in the province.

The bombings killed many children and women, who attended a  Shi’ite religious ceremony to commemorate the death of Prophet  Mohammad’s grandson Hussein, state television reported, adding  that the death toll was expected to increase.

The poor province of Sistan-Baluchistan, near Iran’s border  with Pakistan and Afghanistan, has been the scene of unrest with  the mainly Sunni population claiming discrimination by the  Shi’ite authorities.

Iran’s Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar told state  television that the attackers had links to neighbouring Pakistan  and that an investigation was underway.

“A group of terrorists who were trained in Pakistan carried  out the bombings…we have informed Pakistani officials as  well,” he said.
Jundollah meanwhile said the attack was in retaliation for  the execution of its leader Abdolmalek Rigi.

“This operation was in revenge for the execution of the  leader of the movement Abdolmalek and other martyrs of Jundollah  who were savagely hanged,” the group said on its website.

It carried the names and photographs of two young men  identified as the suicide bombers and said they targeted the  “regime’s mercenaries and Revolutionary Guards”.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who has sought to engage  diplomatically with Iran while pushing through tougher sanctions  on Tehran over its disputed nuclear programme, condemned what he  said was a “disgraceful and cowardly act”.

“The murder of innocent civilians in their place of worship  during Ashura is a despicable offence, and those who carried it  out must be held accountable,” he said in a statement.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the  “abhorrent terrorist act” and offered his condolences, according  to a statement released by his press office.

Iran has faced a string of blasts in past months, including  two in June that killed 27 people in the same province.  Jundollah had also claimed responsibility  for that attack.
Bombings and clashes between security forces, ethnic Baluch  Sunni insurgents and drug traffickers have increased in recent  years in the area.

Iran says Jundollah has links to Sunni Islamist al Qaeda and  has accused Pakistan, Britain and the United States of  supporting the group to stir instability in southeast Iran, home  to Iran’s Sunni minority. The three countries deny backing it.

“America and the Zionist regime (Israel) try to create  discord among Shi’ites and Sunnis by orchestrating such  bombings,” said parliament speaker Ali Larijani, the  semi-official Mehr news agency reported. “They should know that  such measures will not go unanswered.”

The United States and Israel have not ruled out a military  strike against Iran if diplomacy fails to persuade Iran to halt  its sensitive nuclear work, which the West fears is aimed at  building bombs. Tehran denies the claim.

Mahmoud Mozafar, head of the province’s Red Crescent, said  his team had received a number of threats before the ceremony.  “We were on alert in the past days because of some anonymous  threats,” he told Reuters by telephone.
He said that according to his information more than 36  people were killed.
“Three terrorists entered Iran from a neighbouring country  … One of them blew himself, another one was killed by police  and the other was arrested while trying to flee Iran,” an  unnamed Intelligence Ministry official told the IRIB website.

Iranian leaders reject allegations by Western human rights  groups and Jundollah that the Islamic Republic discriminates  against ethnic and religious minorities.

Ethnic Baluch, many with tribal links to their restive kin  in neighbouring Pakistan and Afghanistan, make up an estimated  one to three percent of Iran’s 77 million people.

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