A suicide bomber blew himself up at a meeting of the elite Revolutionary Guards in southeastern Iran Sunday, killing at least 30 people including top commanders and tribal leaders, a senior official 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. Related article: Iran Guards — prestige target for rebels.
“Based on the latest information… between 30 to 35 people, including military officers, tribal leaders and local citizens, have been martyred in the attack,” Mohammad Marziah, chief prosecutor in the Sistan-Baluchestan provincial capital Zahedan, was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.
Marziah said Abdolmalek Rigi, leader of the shadowy Jundallah (Soldiers of God) Sunni group, had claimed responsibility for the attack.
“So far no one has been arrested, but terrorist Malek Rigi has accepted the responsibility for this terrorist attack,” Marziah said.
The interior ministry earlier said at least 29 people were killed and 28 wounded in the blast.
Iran’s state broadcaster said the attack 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 meeting local leaders of the Shiite and Sunni communities. Some local tribal chiefs 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 Jundallah, 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.