Bomb blasts kill several in Iran

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Four separate bombs have exploded in the south-western Iranian city of Ahwaz, killing more than five people and wounding up to 87 others. The presidential election is due in five days time.

Later, an additional bomb was detonated in Teheran, killing three and wounding several others.

Earlier news reports reported a lower number, but reports from two major international agencies are now reporting much higher injury numbers. Bombings in Iran have been extremely rare, since the war with Iraq ended in 1988.

One bomb exploded outside the governor general's office. Three more bombs exploded near government buildings in a period of two hours. Some reports put the official death toll at eight, and official reports confirm that up to 30 were injured; but final numbers are not yet known.

"We cannot say for now who committed these attacks, but the intelligence ministry is investigating," The deputy governor of Khuzestan said in a statement to state television. He went on to say that "The attacks are a failure, because in the past the regime has been confronted by far worse."

The Ahwaz attacks have been claimed by a previously unknown group known as the "Ahwazi Revolutionary Martyrs' Brigades," while a group protesting the bombings outside the Khuzestan governor's residence chanted "Death to the hypocrites" - a slogan applied to the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MeK) organization.

Ali Agha Mohammadi, head press secretary for the security services at first refused to implicate the MeK in the attacks, but later asserted that the bombs “may have been the work of people who belong to the [Mojahedin]." The MeK, which has admitted responsibility for previous attacks, have disclaimed any part in the latest string of bombings.

The MeK is currently listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the U.S. State Department and has received similar designations from other governments and the European Union. However, according to two prominent security analysts, the bombings seen this weekend are not their style. “These don’t have the MeK’s fingerprints on them,” according to Mustafa Akmal. “The MeK has not engaged in any violent action for the past four years,” he said, adding “Even before ceasing its armed activities in Iran, it had a policy of claiming responsibility for all its operations.”

Akmal's colleague, Walter Murray of the Gulf Intelligence Monitor agreed, saying it would be foolish for the group to alienate potential supporters in the West and endanger the fruits of years of lobbying western governments with such attacks. Murray felt the bombers were more likely "...loose cannons..." in Iran's military or intelligence services.

According to Iranian top national security official Ali Agha Mohammadi, "the terrorists of Ahvaz infiltrated Iran from the region of Basra" in southern Iraq." He added that "these terrorists have been trained under the umbrella of the Americans in Iraq."

These attacks seem to represent a new capability of anti-Tehran forces to strike inside of Iran that did not exist before the US invasion and occupation of Iraq.

There has been no official US denunciation of the attacks.


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