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11 Iranian troops die in bombing

February 15, 2007|From the Associated Press

TEHRAN — A car bomb killed 11 members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard on Wednesday near the Pakistani border, and Iran accused the United States of backing militants to destabilize the country.

A Sunni Muslim militant group called Jundallah, or God's Brigade, which has been blamed for previous attacks on Iranian troops, claimed responsibility for the bombing, according to the semiofficial Fars News Agency.

An Al Qaeda-linked group of the same name has carried out attacks in neighboring Pakistan. Iranian officials say militants in southeastern Iran find haven in Pakistan, but it is not clear whether the two groups are connected. Pakistani officials say they are not.

The blast represented a sharp flare-up of violence in the remote southeastern corner of Iran, near Pakistan and Afghanistan, an area long plagued by lawlessness. The region is a key crossing point for opium from Afghanistan and often sees clashes between police and drug gangs.

Jundallah has waged a low-level insurgency in the area, led by Abdulmalak Rigi, a member of Iran's ethnic Baluchi minority, a community that is Sunni Muslim and is present in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Rigi has said his group is fighting for the rights of impoverished Sunnis under Iran's Shiite government.

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