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Deadly suicide blast rips through Shiite mosque on holy day

A suicide bomber self-detonated outside a mosque in the south-eastern Iranian city of Chabahar on Wednesday, killing at least 39 people. The attack comes as Shiites marked the eve of the end of Ashura, one of the high points of the Shiite calendar.

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AFP - A suicide bomber blew himself up at a Shiite religious procession in the Iranian city of Chabahar on Wednesday killing at least 39 people in the latest violence to rock the southeastern border region.

A pathologist cited by the official IRNA news agency said 38 bodies had been brought to the town's mortuary, among them women and children. A 39th casualty later succumbed to his wounds, the pathologist said.

The bomber struck in a central square where worshippers were taking part in a procession marking the eve of the last day of Ashura, Red Crescent official Mahmoud Mozafar told the ILNA news agency.

"An individual walked up to some Red Crescent ambulances and blew himself up," he said.

The governor of Sistan-Baluchestan province, Ali Mohammad Azad, said: "Two terrorists were killed, one in the explosion and the second by police."

The prefect of Chabahar, Ali Bateni, said a third terrorist was later arrested.

"There were two terrorists who were spotted before they carried out their attack but one of them managed to detonate his explosive vest," Bateni told IRNA.

"The ringleader of this terrorist action has been arrested."

The attack came on the eve of the final day of Ashura, one of the high points of the Shiite calendar when large crowds of worshippers gather in mosques across predominantly Shiite Iran.

But unlike most of the rest of the country, Sistan-Baluchestan where Chabahar is situated has a significant Sunni community and has seen persistent unrest in recent years by Sunni militant group Jundallah (Soldiers of God).

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday's bombing but over the past decade, Jundallah has claimed many deadly attacks on Iranian security forces as well as assaults that have led to civilian deaths.

In July, it claimed responsibility for an attack on the Grand Mosque in the provincial capital Zahedan that targeted members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards Corps and killed 28 people.

Last month, the United States officially designated Jundallah a foreign terrorist organisation, drawing a cautious welcome from Iran which had previously accused Washington of supporting the group.

Iranian officials renewed the allegation on Wednesday.

The head of parliament's foreign affairs committee, Alaeddin Borujerdi, accused the "intelligence services of the United States and Britain" of being behind the attack, the ISNA news agency reported.

Deputy Interior Minister Ali Abdollahi said the "equipment used shows that they are terrorists supported by the intelligence services of the region and the US," IRNA reported.

The authorities have cracked down hard on Jundallah, arresting many suspected members and executing its leader Abdolmalek Rigi in June.

Rigi was captured in a dramatic operation in February while on a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan, when Iranian warplanes forced the aircraft he was on to land in Iran.

A month before his execution, his brother Abdolhamid was also executed on charges of "terrorism."

The 10-day Ashura rituals, which climax in Iran on Thursday, commemorate the killing of Imam Hossein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, by armies of the caliph Yazid in 680 AD. Tradition holds that the revered imam was decapitated and his body mutilated.

Shiites make up around 15 percent of Muslims worldwide. They represent the majority populations in Iraq, Iran and Bahrain and form significant communities in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

 

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