TEHRAN, (AFP) – Iran blamed the West and Israel on Saturday for twin suicide bombings which killed at least 27 people, despite condemnation of the attack by the European Union, United Nations and United States.
Iranian police meanwhile arrested 40 people for “creating disturbances” in the southeastern city of Zahedan where the bombers struck on Thursday, the Mehr news agency reported.
“This blind terrorist act was carried out by the mercenaries of the world arrogance (the Western powers),” state television’s website quoted Deputy Interior Minister Ali Abdollahi as saying.
“The agents of this crime were trained and equipped beyond our borders and then came into Iran,” Abdollahi said.
“Those who planned this crime and equipped those who carried it out should know that they are responsible for this incident,” he added.
Sunni militant group Jundallah has said it carried out the bombings which targeted members of the elite Revolutionary Guards at a Shiite mosque in Zahedan, capital of the restive province of Sistan-Baluchestan.
Parliament speaker Ali Larijani directly accused the United States for the bombings.
“The Americans must answer to this terrorist action in Sistan. This is not something they can escape,” the speaker was quoted as saying on the same website.
“Today, the country is mourning the tragic explosion in Zahedan which was done with the backing of Americans. Americans can’t come up with any excuse since they are connected with the Rigi group.”
Crowds of mourners gathered in Zahedan on Saturday for a mass funeral for the bombings’ victims.
They assembled outside the city’s Jamia mosque where the bombers struck for a procession to the main cemetery.
“Those who committed these terrorist acts are neither Shiite nor Sunni,” said one banner carried by the mourners, while crowds chanted: “Death to terrorists,” the official IRNA news agency reported.
Mehr news agency quoted Iran’s deputy police chief, Ahmad Reza Radan, as saying that 40 people had been arrested on Friday for “creating disturbances” in Zahedan.
Tehran has long charged that Washington has provided support to the Rigi group as part of efforts to destabilise the Islamic regime by fomenting unrest among ethnic minorities in sensitive border areas.
But on Friday, US President Barack Obama condemned the “outrageous terrorist attacks,” while UN chief Ban Ki-moon blasted a “senseless act of terrorism” and European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton condemned “these cowardly terrorist attacks.”
Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar pointed the finger at Israel, charging that Iran’s arch-foe was seeking to stir up sectarian tensions.
“The terrorist act by the Zionists had a number of objectives, including creating division between Shiites and Sunnis,” the ISNA news agency quoted Najjar as saying.
He said Iran’s security and intelligence services now had “a grip on the situation.”
In a message to the people of Sistan-Baluchestan, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on “Sunni and Shiite Muslims to be patient and to maintain unity,” the Fars news agency reported.
Jundallah claims it is fighting for the rights of Baluchis who make up a significant proportion of the population of Sistan-Baluchestan province and who, unlike Iran’s Shiite majority, mainly follow the Sunni branch of Islam.
The province borders Afghanistan and Pakistan and analysts says Jundallah has exploited the unrest in the region to find safe haven on the frontier.
The deputy interior minister urged Iran’s eastern neighbours to “watch their borders” to prevent the militant group using their territory.