Bomb blast in Iran injures three civilians

Thursday, June 16, 2005

For a second time this week, the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan was rocked by a bombing. Like the previous bomb blast reported Tuesday, it was relatively small and produced only three injuries and no fatalities. This is in stark contrast to bombs detonated over the weekend in Ahwaz and Tehran, which produced a dozen fatalities and scores of injuries. The Ahwaz bomb went off in a fast-food restaurant at 7:50 PM local time.

A government spokesperson said both bombings were "...anti-[Islamic] revolution elements against innocent people."

Across the border, Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari issued a denunciation of the bombings and called for closer anti-terrorism cooperation between the countries of the Middle East.

It is not clear who has truly been behind the string of Zahedan and Tehran bombings. Three little-known Arab separatist groups operating in the rebellious Khuzestan province have claimed credit for the bombings there, but no one has stepped forward to claim the others.

At first, after the earliest attacks, the government seemed to blame the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MeK) organization. It later expanded its accusations to allege U.S. facilitation and imply infiltration via U.S. occupied Iraq or Afghanistan, both of which share extensive borders with Iran. The MeK, which formerly operated under Saddam Hussein's protection in Iraq, has claimed bombings in the past, but vehemently denies participating in the recent spate of attacks. The group seems to have moved away from violent acts in recent years as it tries to curry favor with Western governments and shed its terrorist image (the group is currently listed on U.S. and many European terrorist watch lists). The affiliated National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has also denied involvement.

On March 30, a previously unknown group called "The 70 Million People of Iran" issued a statement hinting at violent resistance to the current regime --- but only after a June 18 deadline, which has not yet passed.

Reformist candidate Mostafa Moin has raised the possibility that rouge hardline Islamist groups planted the bombs to frighten people into choosing a military-affiliated candidate. Moin, currently running number two in the polls behind former president and current Discernment Council chairman Akbar Hashemi Rasfanjani, also threatened to pull out of the race and ask his supporters to boycott elections to protest the treatment of his running mates and supporters, several of whom have been attacked by extremist mobs.