Iran Blames U.S. For suicide attack in southeast

(Late-breaking updates below, including reactions and Jundullah’s claim of responsibility.)

Iran blamed the United States for a suicide attack in the Islamic Republic’s restive Southeast. While Iran is mostly a Shia country, the Southeast is home to a Sunni ethnic Baluchi population that straddles the border with Pakistan.

The New York Times reports:

Iran accused the United States of responsibility for a suicide attack on Wednesday that killed at least 39 people and wounded many more at a highly symbolic and emotionally charged mourning ceremony near a mosque in southeastern Iran.

“The advanced equipment and facilities of the perpetrators show that this attack was supported by the regional intelligence services of the United States,” said Ali Abdolahi, deputy for security at the Interior Ministry, in comments published on the official IRNA news agency Web site.

Mr. Abdolahi confirmed earlier news reports that two bombers detonated explosive-packed belts on Wednesday morning among crowds that had gathered outside the Imam Hussein Mosque in the city of Chabahar near the border with Pakistan. One of the attackers was said to have been identified by police and shot before setting off his explosives, to little effect. Reports from semi-official news agencies said that a third attacker was arrested by police.

While no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, the Times suggests that Jundullah may have been involved because one of the dead was from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gorps (IRGC), a group frequently targeted by Jundullah.

Jundullah, from the borders with Pakistan, claims to fight for the rights of Iran’s Sunni minority. Rumors have long circulated of U.S. support for Jundullah, a charge the government has emphatically denied. The group was placed on the U.S. list of foreign terror organizations in November.

Late-breaking updates: According to press reports, Jundullah has indeed taken credit for the attack.

President Barack Obama issued a statement on the attacks, according to multiple news sources. AFP reports:

WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama on Wednesday strongly condemned an “outrageous terrorist attack” by a suicide bomber at a Shiite religious procession in Chabahar, Iran, which killed at least 39 people.

“I strongly condemn the outrageous terrorist attack on a mosque in Chabahar, Iran,” Obama said in a written statement.

“The murder of innocent civilians in their place of worship during Ashura is a despicable offense, and those who carried it out must be held accountable. This is a disgraceful and cowardly act.”

Obama said such acts recognized no religious, political, or national boundaries, adding that the United States condemned terrorism wherever it occurs.

“The United States stands with the families and loved ones of those killed and injured, and with the Iranian people, in the face of this injustice,” he said.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran also condemned the attacks:

“This deplorable murder of innocent people cannot be justified, and violates the beliefs and values of all who seek peace and justice in Iran,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the spokesperson for the Campaign.

“We hope this grotesque act will not lead to reprisals harming other innocent citizens,” he added.

The Campaign said the attack was aimed at stoking ethnic tensions in Iran.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.