Iran, still haunted by Jundallah attacks, blames West
Iran has repeatedly declared victory over Jundallah, the Sunni and Baluch group that claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed at least 39 Shiite worshipers today.
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A second image shows the younger attacker standing alone with a hint of a grin on his boyish face, and wearing his suicide vest over a white T-shirt, the package of explosives held in place by two colorful shoulder straps.Skip to next paragraph
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The third image shows the smiling, older attacker with longish hair, a baseball cap and a trace of beard, with hands in the front pocket of his jeans – to all appearance a typical Iranian youth, except for the wired explosive vest around his waist.
State television reported that for the past three days Iranian authorities had received threats of imminent Jundallah attacks in Iran’s remote Sistan-Baluchistan Province, which abuts the border with Pakistan and, further north, Afghanistan.
But security would have been tightened most in the provincial capital of Zahedan – the site of many previous attacks – and for the actual peak of Ashura on Thursday. That day marks the 7th-century death of Hossein, the revered third imam for Shiites, at the hands of a Sunni army.
“Their goal is to divide the Shiites and Sunnis, and to incite differences between them,” said a mourner named Rahimi after the blasts, according to news agency footage that aired on Al Jazeera English. “In the view of all freedom-seekers, it is not a good action and is condemned.”
Iran has long accused US of backing Jundallah
Despite the execution of Jundallah’s leader – who was captured when his commercial flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan was forced to land by Iranian fighter planes last February – Jundallah has vowed to keep up what they consider a fight for more rights for ethnic Baluchs in Iran.
Jundallah has for years targeted both civilians and officers of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard unit, including high-profile bomb attacks such as the one that killed 42 people in October 2009 – among them seven ranking Guard officers and senior tribal leaders. Other attacks killed 20 worshipers in a mosque the previous May; and 11 Guard soldiers died when their bus was attacked in February 2004.
Tehran has long accused Washington of supporting Jundallah “terrorists” against the Islamic Republic, in a secret policy of backing minority groups with grievances against the regime. Iran’s top intelligence officials in February showed what they claimed were photographs of Rigi just days before his capture, on a US military base in Afghanistan.
In a televised “confession” after his arrest, Rigi himself said Jundallah had received US support, echoing earlier claims made by Rigi’s brother of US help. In 2007, ABC News quoted US officials saying anonymously that American cash was funneled through non-US intermediaries.
After Rigi’s arrest the regional governor had said: “The arrest has returned complete security to the region, and this province will follow the path of progress rapidly.”
And yet the desert region was struck by another bomb attack in July, in which Jundallah claimed responsibility for the deaths of 28, including Revolutionary Guard officers, at the Grand Mosque in Zahedan.
Despite the number of lethal attacks going back a decade, Jundallah was only added last month to the US State Department’s global list of terrorist groups.