x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Iran hangs three for mosque bombing

Iran hangs three men in public after they were found guilty of being involved in a deadly mosque bombing.

Iran today hanged three men in public convicted of involvement in a suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque this week that killed 25 people, the official IRNA news agency reported. "The terrorists Haji Noti Zehi, Gholam Rasoul Shahi Zehi and Zabihollah Naroui were hanged at 6am (4.30am local time) near the Amir al-Momenin mosque in public," an official said, referring to the mosque in the southeastern city of Zahedan where the bombing took place during evening prayers on Thursday.

At least 125 people were wounded in the powerful blast. "They confessed to illegally bringing explosives into Iran and giving them to the main person behind the bombing," IRNA quoted the official, Sistan-Baluchestan justice chief Hojatoeslam Ebrahim Hamidi, as saying. "They were convicted of being "mohareb" (enemies of God) and 'corrupt on the Earth' and acting against national security," he added.

"They were arrested before the Thursday's bombing but they confessed that they had provided the explosives for the bombing. They were tried and they had court-appointed legal representation," Mr Hamidi said. "They were (also) charged with direct involvement in the bombing of a Sepah (Revolutionary Guards) bus in 2007, the Al-Ghadir mosque and some other bombings," he added. Thirteen Revolutionary Guards were killed in an attack on their bus in Zahedan, the restive capital of Sistan-Baluchestan province, in February 2007.

In February this year, a bomb apparently carried by a motorcyclist exploded in Zahedan's Al-Ghadir mosque complex but caused no casualties. "This case is not over and the search will continue by the provincial police, intelligence and security and they will hunt the rest of them," Mr Hamdi said. On Friday, Jalal Sayah, deputy governor of Sistan-Baluchestan, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan, said that "three people involved with the terrorist incident were arrested."

"According to the information obtained they were hired by America and the agents of the arrogance," he added. Officials usually use the term "global arrogance" to refer to Iran's arch-foe the United States. Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli also pointed the finger towards the United States and Israel. US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly denied emphatically that Washington was behind the attack, which it condemned "in the strongest possible terms".

"The US strongly condemns all forms of terrorism. We do not sponsor any form of terrorism in Iran and we continue to work with the international community to try to prevent any attacks against innocent civilians anywhere," Kelly told reporters in Washington on Friday. Mr Hamidi on Saturday repeated the allegations of US involvement. "While the nation is preparing for the presidential election, the hand of global arrogance is using some mercenaries to target a sacred place like a mosque," he said

Iranian officials had earlier said Thursday's blast was an attempt to disrupt campaigning for the June 12 presidential elections. "The enemy wants to spread division among Sunnis and Shiites but the alertness and the unity of the people and officials will decrease the concerns," Mr Hamdi said. In recent years, Sistan-Baluchestan has been the scene of a deadly insurgency by Sunni rebels of the Jundullah (Soldiers of God) group, headed by Abdolmalek Rigi, which is strongly opposed to the government of predominantly Shiite Iran.

The province also lies on a major narcotics-smuggling route from Afghanistan and Pakistan. * AFP