TEHRAN, Iran, AP – Iran has detained dozens of suspects in two bombings that killed at least nine people in a southwestern city last week, attacks Iran blamed on the United States and Britain, state media reported Monday.
The blasts Tuesday in Ahvaz, capital of oil-rich Khuzestan province on the border with Iraq, also wounded 46. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was to have visited the city on that day but canceled for unknown reasons.
Abdolrahim Fazilatpour, deputy governor of Ahvaz, said about 50 suspects had been detained in the bombings, according to the official Islamic Republic News. He said different groups had claimed responsibly for the attacks but did not elaborate.
Last week, a Web site representing several Arab independence movements focused on the Ahvaz region carried a claim of responsibility in the name of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz. The group called the attack “revenge for the blood of our martyrs and (to signal) our rejection to the terrorist Ahmadinejad’s defiling the land of Ahvaz in his visit.”
Arabs make up less than 3 percent of Iran’s population, and most live in Khuzestan. Tuesday’s attacks were the latest in a spate of violence in the region the government has blamed on Iranian Arab extremists who were allegedly trained abroad and maintained ties to foreign governments.
While Iran has accused the United States and Britain of having a hand in the latest bombings, it has provided no evidence, saying only that the case was under investigation. Britain has about 8,000 troops based just across the border in southern Iraq as part of the U.S.-led force in Iraq.
Government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham said Monday the bombings were designed to make Iran look unstable. “The (real) enemies are those occupiers who have set themselves up in Iraq, particularly Britain,” he said.
Iran also blamed Britain for two blasts at an Ahvaz shopping mall that killed six people and wounded dozens in October. After a June bombing in the region that killed eight people, the government blamed Arab extremists with ties to foreign governments, including British intelligence.
Britain has denied any connection to the Khuzestan unrest.
Tensions between the two countries have flared recently over Britain’s opposition to Iran’s resumption of nuclear activities. The United States and its European allies suspect Iran wants to produce nuclear weapons, and Britain supports moves to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to impose economic and political sanctions. Iran says its nuclear program is for generating electricity.
Britain also has accused Tehran of allowing Iraqi insurgents to receive explosives technology that has been used to attack British soldiers. Iran denies those allegations.