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Islamic militant group claims responsibility for suicide bombings that killed 27 in Iran

July 16, 2010|By Borzou Daragahi and Ramin Mostaghim | Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Beirut and Tehran — An Islamic militant group whose leader was recently executed by Iranian authorities claimed responsibility for a pair of late Thursday bomb blasts that killed at least 27 people, including members of the Revolutionary Guard, at a mosque in southeastern Iran.

Jundollah, a militant group that draws support from Iran's ethnic Baluch minority, said it dispatched two suicide bombers to the mosque during an evening prayer ceremony in the city of Zahedan in order to kill members of the Revolutionary Guard and avenge the arrest and hanging last month of their leader, Abdolmalek Rigi.

According to Iranian news agencies, the first suicide bomber, possibly dressed as a woman, tried unsuccessfully to enter the mosque before blowing himself up, killing and injuring several. A second suicide bomber blew himself up 15 minutes later amid a crowd of bystanders and rescue workers attending to the first victims, killing and wounding many more.

A Zahedan-based journalist, Adel Mazari, said 150 of the 270 wounded were severely injured and remained hospitalized. The statement by Jundollah named the suicide bombers as Mohammad Rigi and Abdolbasset Rigi, both members of the late leader's tribe.

Ethnic Baluchis are mostly Sunni Muslims while nearly 90% of Iranians are members of the Shiite sect of Islam. An Iranian official and Mazari said the attack had enraged the local population. After the blasts, furious locals stormed a business district and a residential area believed to belong to Sunnis, but police quickly established order, Mazari said.

"People have been severely affected and they are complaining against the government," lawmaker Hossein-Ali Shahriari told the semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency.

Iranian officials contend that Jundollah is backed by the United States, citing televised confessions the group's late leader Rigi made during his detention. On Friday, Iranian lawmaker Esmail Kowsari blamed the U.S., Britain and Israel for Thursday's terrorist attack.

daragahi@latimes.com

Mostaghim is a special correspondent

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