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Rebel Sunni Group Claims Responsibility For Deadly Iran Bombings

An undated photograph released by Fars news agency shows members of Jundallah issuing demands, which the group claims are part of efforts to defend the Baluchi minority.
The Jundallah Sunni rebel group has claimed responsibility for two apparent suicide blasts that rocked the capital of Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province late on July 15, killing at least 20 and injuring more than 100.

Iran's state-run news agency IRNA reported that the first blast occurred at 9:20 p.m. local time in front of the entrance of Zahedan's main mosque and that the second explosion followed shortly thereafter.

A Zahedan member of Iran's parliament, Hosseinali Shahriari, told the semi-official Fars news agency that three or four people were killed in the first blast. He said the second blast occurred as people were arriving to offer help.

The scene after the double bomb attacks at Zahedan's main mosque on July 15
He said that an individual who was wearing women's clothing had tried to enter the Jame Mosque but had been prevented from doing so. That person apparently detonated the first of the suicide blasts.

Interior Minister Ali Abdollahi said that the death toll was likely to increase. He told the Fars news agency that among those killed were members of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps who were stationed at a nearby military checkpoint.

Internet Claim

Shahriari said the attacks are the work of the Sunni rebel group Jundollah, which also claimed responsibility in a statement posted on its website. The statement said that two of the group's young members, named as Aziz Mohammad Rigi and Mojahed Abdol Baset, carried out suicide attacks "among members of the Revolutionary Guard who were celebrating Pasdar [Revolutionary Guards] Day."

The statement called the suicide attacks a response to the "crimes" of the Iranian government in Baluchistan, who, according to the group, had thought that they could stop the group's activities by executing its leader.

The rebel group claims that it is defending the rights of Iran's Baluch minority.

Alleged Jundallah leader Abdolmalek Rigi, seen here in February, was hanged by Iranian authorities in June.
Jundallah's leader, Abdolmalek Rigi, was hanged in Iran last month for his role in earlier deadly attacks in Iran after being captured in February. The group had vowed to avenge his execution.

Yadollah Javani, the head of the political department of the Revolutionary Guards, blamed the United States for the attacks. He said that Rigi's confession of receiving U.S. aid following his arrest demonstrated that the United States, Israel, and other Western countries were directly involved in the Zahedan bombings.

Iran identifies Jundallah as a terrorist group with ties to Al-Qaeda and says it is supported by a number of foreign countries, including the United States and Britain. Both have rejected the claim.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the mosque attacks, describing them as "horrific" and calling for the perpetrators to be "held accountable for their actions."

Jundallah has claimed responsibility in recent years for a number of deadly bombings and kidnappings of Iranian soldiers.

The latest bombings are likely to increase tensions in Iran's restive Sistan-Baluchistan Province, where the Iranian government has responded to attacks by a number of hangings. The hangings have been condemned by rights groups.

written by Golnaz Esfandiari
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