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Iran Threatens To Retaliate For Revolutionary Guards Attacks

Iran's official Arabic-language Al-Alam TV shows a wounded man arriving at a hospital in the southeastern Iranian city of Pishin, near the border with Pakistan, on October 18.
(RFE/RL) -- Iranian officials have issued warnings against foreign governments and alleged international operatives they blame for bombings that killed at least 42 people in southeastern Iran, according to state media, including elite military commanders and tribal elders.

Accusations from Tehran allege links between U.S., British, and Pakistani intelligence and the group that Iranians have said carried out the attack, Jundallah (God's Soldiers).

Officials from all three of those countries have condemned the October 18 bombings, which appeared to have been coordinated and targeted a community meeting with military brass in attendance and a vehicle transporting members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Angry statements from Iranian officials hinted at "retaliatory" and possible cross-border military operations to combat those responsible for the attacks.

"Behind the scene are the American and British intelligence apparatus, and there will have to be retaliatory measures to punish them," Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of the Revolutionary Guards, said according to local press reports.

Reports say that two coordinated bombings, one by a suicide bomber, killed at least five IRGC leaders, including two high-ranking commanders, in addition to tribal leaders and civilians. Iran's official English-language Press TV put the death toll at 42.

The attacks raised tensions going into a scheduled meeting between representatives from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran, France, Russia, and the United States in Vienna on October 19 over Tehran's disputed nuclear program.

Iranian state television reported after the blasts that the Sunni rebel group Jundallah, which has been blamed for a series of deadly operations in the same Sistan-Baluchistan Province where these fresh attacks occurred, had claimed responsibility.

Cross-Border Accusations

Lawmaker Payman Foruzesh was quoted by Reuters as saying that "there is unanimity about the Revolutionary Guards and the security forces engaging in operations in any place they would deem necessary."

General Nurali Shushtari was one of the IRGC commanders killed.
Iranian authorities have repeatedly alleged that Jundallah operates freely in southwestern Pakistan, including organizing cross-border attacks.

"There is even unanimity that these [Iranian counterterror] operations [could] take place in Pakistan territory," Foruzesh said.

Emadedin Mazari, the editor in chief of the province's "Sobhe Zahedan" weekly, suggested to RFE/RL that Jundallah was eager to block efforts at rapprochement between the Baluch Sunni minority in the region and central Iranian authorities.

Pakistan's Foreign Office was quoted by the "Daily Times" newspaper on October 19 as rejecting the allegation of ties between Islamabad and Jundallah.

Spokesman Abdul Basit dismissed suggestions that Jundallah's leader was hiding in Pakistan and stressed that country's "friendly relations" with Iran.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the "ghastly act of terrorism" in predominantly Shi'ite Iran, Gilani's office said, according to Reuters.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in a brief statement that "we condemn this act of terrorism and mourn the loss of innocent lives. Reports of alleged U.S. involvement are completely false."

Britain condemned the "terrorist attack" and the resulting loss of life.

Political analyst Abdul Star Do Shuki tells RFE/RL's Radio Farda that Iran has accused the United States and Britain of providing support for Jundallah in the past, "although they've never provided material evidence."

Those killed in the attacks include IRGC land-forces commander General Nurali Shushtari as well as the IRGC commander in Sistan-Baluchistan, General Rajabali Mohammadzadeh.

written in Prague from RFE/RL and wire reports