Dozens killed in attack on Revolutionary Guards
Iranian authorities say up to 35 people, including two senior officials of the elite Revolutionary Guards, have been killed in a suicide attack in the country's volatile south-east. Sunni rebels have reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.
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AFP - A suicide bomber blew himself up at a meeting of the elite Revolutionary Guards in southeastern Iran on Sunday, killing 35 people including top commanders and tribal leaders, the interior ministry said.
The attack took place in the city of Pisheen near the border with Pakistan in restive Sistan-Baluchestan province, which hosts a substantial Sunni population, local news agencies said.
Iran's parliament speaker said the United States was behind the attack, while the Guards accused Western powers of carrying out the assault, the deadliest against them since a bombing in February 2007 in the same province killed 13 people.
Iran's state broadcaster said Sunday's blast occurred at around 8:00 am (0430 GMT) in front of a local gymnasium in Pisheen.
Fars news agency said the bomber struck when Guard officers were preparing for a meeting with local leaders of Shiite and Sunni communities. Some local tribal heads were among the dead, media reports said.
The official IRNA news agency said the suicide bomber "wearing an explosives vest blew himself up inside the meeting."
Fars said: "In this terrorist act, General Nur-Ali Shushtari, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards ground forces, General Mohammad-Zadeh, commander of the Revolutionary Guards in Sistan-Baluchestan province, the Guards' commander for the town of Iranshahr and the commander of the Amir al-Momenin unit died."
Three other commanders from the adjacent province of Kerman were also killed, according to Fars.
Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani confirmed the officers' deaths in an announcement to parliament which was broadcast on television.
"The goal of the terrorists is to disturb the security of the Sistan-Baluchestan province," he told parliament.
"It shows they do not want to have economic progress in this region. But certainly the Guards will act with more force to establish security in the region."
In a separate statement later he said the United States was implicated in the deadly attack.
"We consider the recent terrorist attack to be the result of US action. This is the sign of America's animosity against our country," Larijani said.
"Mr. Obama has said he will extend his hand towards Iran, but with this terrorist action he has burned his hand," he said referring to US President Barack Obama's repeated diplomatic overtures to Tehran.
The Guards said foreign powers were behind the attack.
"The world arrogance, by provoking its lackeys and mercenaries in the region, carried out a terrorist attack on a popular meeting between the Guards and tribesmen," the Guards said in a statement carried by local media.
Iranian officials and several government bodies term Western powers, including the United States, as "world arrogance."
Aladdin Borujerdi, senior MP and head of parliament's commission on national security and foreign policy, also pointed the finger at Washington.
"The enemies of the Islamic revolution, especially the United States is the main supporter of terrorist networks" such as the Sunni group Jundallah (Soldiers of God) led by Abdolmalek Rigi and operating in Iran, he was quoted as saying by Mehr news agency.
Iranian officials have previously accused Britain and the United States of supporting ethnic minority rebels of Jundallah operating in the sensitive border areas, especially in Sistan-Baluchestan province.
Jundallah is strongly opposed to the government of predominantly Shiite Iran.
Zahedan, a dusty and restive border city, has been subjected to low-level unrest for several years.
On May 28, at least 25 people were killed when a Shiite mosque in the city was attacked by a suicide bomber.
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