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Iran blames US for mosque bombing

A top Iranian official accuses the US of hiring the bombers to carry out a devastating attack on a Shiite mosque in the southeastern city of Zahedan.

A top Iranian official today accused the United States of hiring the bombers who carried out a devastating attack on a Shiite mosque in the southeastern city of Zahedan, Fars news agency said. "Three people involved with the terrorist incident were arrested," said Jalal Sayah, deputy provincial governor of Sistan-Baluchistan province. "According to the information obtained they were hired by America and the agents of the arrogance." Mohammad Gholami, the head of the local Martyrs' Foundation, told Fars that 23 people were killed in yesterday's attack on the Amir al-Momenin mosque in Zahedan, the restive capital of Sistan-Baluchestan province. Ali Mohammad Azad, the governor-general of the province, told the official IRNA news agency that 125 others were wounded in the attack, which was carried out during evening prayers. "It was a terrorist attack and the bomb was exploded by a terrorist," Mr Azad told reporters yesterday. Fars quoted unnamed sources as saying the "suicide attacker exploded the bomb in the women's section" of the shrine, the second biggest Shiite mosque in Zahedan. Fars said the mosque was a "gathering place for revolutionary Shiites." The explosion comes just weeks ahead of Iran's June 12 presidential election. Sistan-Baluchestan province bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan has a large ethnic Sunni Baluch minority. In recent years, it has been the scene of a deadly insurgency by Sunni rebels of the Jundullah (Soldiers of God) group which is strongly opposed to predominantly Shiite country's government. The province also lies on a major narcotics-smuggling route from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Iran has in the past blamed US and British agents based in neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan for launching attacks on border provinces with significant ethnic minority populations. *AFP

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