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Gunmen attack Iran president's election center

Opposition group tells Al Arabiya they blew up mosque

Published:

Three people were injured Friday after gunmen on motorbikes attacked President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election campaign center in the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan, where a day before a suicide bomber blew himself up in a Shiite mosque, which the Islamic republic accused the United States of orchestrating.

"Three knife-wielding people on motorbikes stopped outside the center on Saadi Street, cursed, made threats and tore up billboards," Mohammad Reza Zahed Sheikhi, who heads Ahmadinejad's election office in Zahedan, told official news agency IRNA.

The attack comes a day after a suicide bomber killed 25 people and wounded 125 others in an attack on a Shiite mosque in Zahedan, in Sistan-Baluchestan province bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Earlier, the Iranian Jundullah (God's soldiers) opposition group declared its responsibility for Thursday's suicide bombing, a group spokesman told AlArabiya.

Abdul Raouf al-Riji said that the blast targeted a meeting of the Iranian Basij forces, which are affiliated with Iran's Revolutionary Guards. The meeting inside the mosque was aimed to coordinate election strategy.

He added that Thursday's attack was a suicide bombing that was carried out by a group member called Abdul Khaleq al-Mulla.

Accusing the U.S.

Meanwhile, a top Iranian official accused United States intelligence services of hiring the bombers who carried out Thursday's attack, Fars News Agency reported.

"Three people involved with the terrorist incident were arrested," Jalal Sayah, deputy provincial governor of Sistan-Baluchistan province, told the agency.

"According to the information obtained they were hired by America and the agents of the arrogance."

The U.S. State Department strongly rejected the Iranian official's claims.

"We condemn this terrorist attack in the strongest possible terms," said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly. "We do not sponsor any form of terrorism in Iran," he added.

Iran's former prime minister and presidential hopeful Mir Hossein Mousavi also blamed "foreign forces" for Thursday's attack, which left 23 people dead and 125 others wounded.

Mousavi at a media conference with journalists from international news networks said incidents such as the mosque bombing "have either been influenced or supported by foreign forces."

"The fewer foreign forces in the region, the more security there is. They provoke extremism in the region such as the incident in Zahedan," said Mousavi, one of four candidates standing in the June 12 presidential election.

The fewer foreign forces in the region, the more security there is. They provoke extremism in the region such as the incident in Zahedan

Mir Hossein Mousavi

Terror fed by arrogance

Iran often accuses Israel and the United States of seeking to undermine the Islamic Republic, especially in sensitive border areas.

"Again blood of the oppressed is on the hands of terrorist criminals and those who are fed by the global arrogance," a provincial representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement quoted by ISNA news agency.

Iranian leaders often refer to the U.S. as the "Great Satan" and "Global Arrogance." ISNA did not name the official who made the statement.

In April, the intelligence minister said Iran had arrested a group of people linked to Israel who were planning bombings ahead of the June election, in which hardliner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is seeking a second four-year term.

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.

According to the information obtained they were hired by America and the agents of the arrogance

Jalal Sayah, deputy provincial governor of Sistan-Baluchistan

Fars said the mosque was a "gathering place for revolutionary Shiites."

Thursday was a public holiday in Iran to mourn the death of Fatima Zahra, the daughter of the Prophet Mohammed.

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.

Again blood of the oppressed is on the hands of terrorist criminals and those who are fed by the global arrogance

A provincial representative of supreme leader