x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Iran mosque attack claimed by Sunni rebel group

Twin suicide bombings in a crowded Shiite mosque which killed 27 people and wounded hundreds has been claimed by the group Jundallah weeks after its leader was hanged.

TEHRAN // Twin suicide bombings in a crowded Shiite mosque which killed 27 people and wounded hundreds in attacks has been claimed by a Sunni rebel group weeks after its leader was hanged. Yesterday's bombings, which left members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards among the dead and wounded, struck the Jamia mosque in Zahedan, a southeastern city ravaged by a fierce Sunni insurgency for almost a decade. The bombers detonated their payloads as worshippers were celebrating the birthday of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed, on a day also annually observed as the Guards' Day. The attack "has left 27 people martyred and 270 wounded," Health Minister Marziah Vahid Dastjerdi told the Mehr news agency, adding that 11 of the wounded were in critical conditions. Deputy Interior Minister Ali Abdollahi said some of the dead and wounded included members of the Guards. Ali Mohammad Azad, the governor general of Sistan-Baluchestan, the province of which Zahedan is the capital, said Iran was "investigating who was behind the attack" which was claimed by Rigi's group, Jundallah (Soldiers of God). Jundallah's veteran leader Abdolmalek Rigi was hanged on June 20 after Iranian warplanes intercepted a flight from the UAE to Kyrgyzstan and security forces seized him. "Jundallah announces to the people of Baluchestan and Iran that tonight (Thursday) two of its sons, in an unmatched operation striking at the heart of the Guards who had gathered in a mosque in Zahedan to celebrate Guards Day, were able to send more than a hundred of the Guards to hell," the group said in a statement posted on its website. Zahedan has been repeatedly hit by attacks blamed on Jundallah, which has been fighting for nearly a decade to secure rights for ethnic Sunni Baluchis who form a significant proportion of the population in the province. The group said yesterday's bombings were carried out by two of its members, Abdulbasit Rigi and Mohammad Rigi. "In the first phase of the operation Abdulbasit Rigi blew himself up among tens of Guards," the statement said. "After intelligence, security service and military personnel surrounded the area, Mohammad Rigi blew himself up, sending to hell tens of others. "This operation is in response to the non-stop atrocities in Baluchestan by the regime, which thought that through the martyrdom of Abdolmalek (Rigi) the fight will end," the statement added. Zahedan MP Hossein Ali Shahriari told the Fars news agency that one of the bombers was a man dressed as a woman. * AFP