Update: Jundullah Claims Responsibility for Suicide Bombing; 33 Dead
15 Dec 2010 21:08
[ dispatch ] Two suicide bombers killed at least 33 people and wounded over 83 in a mourning procession in Chabahar on Wednesday morning, according to news reports in Iran.
The Jundullah armed group, which was designated by the United States as a foreign terrorist organization in November, took responsibility for the attack in a statement posted to the Internet today. The group published photos of two young men, identified as Seifolrahman Chabahari and Hessan Khashi, wearing explosive-filled vests and purported to be the suicide bombers. The statement said that the attack had been carried out to avenge the Islamic Republic's execution of Jundullah's leader, Abdol Malek Rigi, this past June.
Information from official sources was confusing, at times contradictory, in the immediate aftermath of the bloody attacks that took place between Farmandari Square and Imam Hossein mosque, in this balmy port with a free-trade zone on the Gulf of Oman.
Chabahar is situated in the southern fringes of Sistan-va Baluchistan province which has a large Sunni Muslim population and has been the scene of terrorist attacks by the Jundullah armed group which proclaims that the country's majority Shiites persecute Sunnis. The Interior Ministry was prompt in blaming foreign governments, particularly the United States. "The equipment and logistical support of the terrorists indicate that these elements were backed by advanced intelligence services of the region and the United States," according to a statement.
Mahmoud Mozaffar, the head of the country's Red Crescent and emergency services, declared that 36 people had perished, then revised the figure to 31. Some of the injured victims who were subsequently revived had been counted among the dead, Mozaffar explained. Mohammad Yaghoub Jadgal, the parliamentary representative from Chabahar, told the state news agency IRNA that 50 to 60 injured had been transferred to hospitals. [According to the latest report from Press TV, at least 33 people have been killed and 83 wounded.]
The following video shows security forces and emergency workers in the area shortly after the attack:
Witnesses said two explosions took place in front of Imam Hossein Mosque on Imam Boulevard, which splits the city in two, along an east-west axis. The city's predominantly Sunni population worship at the much larger Jameh Mosque, a few blocks to the east. The attacks came on one of the Shia's holiest days, Tasoua, in the month of Moharram, itself one of the most sacred months. The first ten days of Moharram are devoted to mourning the martyrdom of Imam Hossein, one of the most revered figures in the Shiite faith, culminating in the commemoration of Ashura, which is tomorrow.
Today's attack took place during the official mourning procession of fishery workers and their families, according to Mehr News.
Deputy Interior Minister in charge of security Ali Abdollahi told reporters that two bombs went off in close proximity between 10:00 and 10:30 a.m., but subsequent news releases said that one of the two blasts was an acoustic bomb. It now appears that the latter conflagration was caused by the detonator of a second explosive device that failed to go off.
Local intelligence and security sources informed Mehr News that three assailants had been involved and that the "main instigator" had been arrested, while another had been killed when his explosives vest blew up. Mehr News reported that the third culprit had been shot by the police. Chabahar Governor Ali Bateni denied that three men were responsible for the attacks, but he confirmed that the "main element in the terrorist attack" has been arrested.
The official line slowly emerging from the chatter seems to be that two suicide bombers carried out the attack, that only one succeeded in exploding his device, and that both men are now dead. "One explosion had a lower toll because the assailant was identified before the blast," said Deputy Interior Minister Abdollahi in a later statement. "The individual was identified by the police and shot. But he managed to detonate the device which did not cause much damage."
Sistan-va-Baluchistan Governor Ali Mohammad Azad told the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network that the "two terrorists waited along the procession's route because they had been unable to approach the official stand. They were suicide bombers. As soon as the security forces became suspicious of them, the first individual detonated his device, martyring and injuring some of our loved ones. The second individual who intended to blow himself up at the same time was identified by the security forces and shot and killed. Some 30 loved ones were killed and 55 injured thus far." (see video below)
So no terrorist was arrested?
"Both were killed," said Governor Azad. "The second individual's belt did not function because he had been shot. Only its detonator exploded. This second one did not cause any casualties."
Opposition groups have announced that they will participate in tomorrow's Ashura ceremonies. Last year's ceremonies turned into a bloody protest against the regime, during which security forces killed demonstrators, at least in two documented instances by running over them with police vehicles.
It is unclear whether today's blasts will result in tougher security measures tomorrow.
Homylafayette, a Tehran Bureau contributor, blogs here.
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