October 19, 2009
The chief of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard accused the United States, Britain and Pakistan on Monday of having links with Sunni militants responsible for a suicide bombing that killed five senior Guard commanders and 37 others.
Iranian medical personnel bring a wounded man to a medical facility in the Pishin district after Sunday's bomb.
World Iran's president said those behind Sunday's bombing are hiding across the border in Pakistan, and in a phone call with his Pakistani counterpart on Monday he demanded their arrest.
The accusations put more strain on the tense relationship that Iran and Pakistan have had for years over the issue of Islamic extremism. Monday's statements marked the first time Iran has publicly accused its neighbor's intelligence service of supporting the Sunni rebel group known as Jundallah, or Soldiers of God.
Jundallah, which emerged in 2002 in Iran's remote and mountainous southeast, has waged a low-level insurgency there to protest what it says is government persecution of the Baluchi ethnic minority. Baluchis follow the Sunni branch of Islam and are a minority in predominantly Shiite, Persian Iran.
A claim of responsibility in the name of the group was posted Monday on an Islamic Web site that usually publishes al-Qaida statements. The posting, whose authenticity could not be verified, made no mention of any assistance from foreign powers.
The group has carried out sporadic kidnappings and attacks in recent years - including targeting the Revolutionary Guard and Shiite civilians. In Sunday's attack, a suicide bomber with explosives strapped around his waist struck as senior Guard commanders were entering a sports complex to meet tribal leaders to discuss Sunni-Shiite cooperation in the Pishin district near the Pakistani border.
Revolutionary Guard chief Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari vowed Monday to deliver a "crushing" response.
"New evidence has been obtained proving the link between yesterday's terrorist attack and the US, British and Pakistani intelligence services," state TV quoted Jafari as saying.He said the attack was "undoubtedly" planned and ordered by the three nation's intelligence services and that a delegation would soon travel to Pakistan to present evidence.
Iran often accuses Western countries, especially the US, of stoking unrest among the country's religious and ethnic minorities - allegations those nations have denied. Iran has also claimed that Jundallah receives support from al-Qaida and Taliban militants who operate across the border in Pakistan's Baluchistan province, where Baluchi nationalists have been waging a militant campaign for independence from the Pakistani government.
Iran's Jundallah, by contrast, does not appear to seek independence, but rather improved rights for the area's Baluchi people. In 2007, the group adopted a more secular name, the Iranian Popular Resistance Movement, and said it did not depend entirely on armed struggle, but also on political and peaceful efforts to achieve Baluchi rights. The group is still widely referred to by its previous name.
Several analysts who have studied Jundallah say the group likely receives inspiration and material support from Baluchi nationalists in Pakistan. But they say there is little evidence of an operational relationship between Jundallah and militants, including al-Qaida and the Taliban, that operate across the border.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had harsh words Monday for his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari.
"The presence of terrorist elements in Pakistan is not justifiable and the Pakistani government needs to help arrest and punish the criminals as soon as possible," state TV quoted Ahmadinejad as telling Zardari.Zardari telephoned Ahmadinejad to strongly condemn the suicide attack, said a statement from the Pakistani president's office. President Zardari said the incident was "gruesome and barbaric" and bore the "signatures of a cowardly enemy on the run."
"We've heard that some officers in Pakistan cooperate with the main elements behind such terrorist attacks and we consider it our right to demand these criminals from them," he was quoted as saying.
He said both Pakistan and Iran have deep historical ties and he pledged that Pakistan will continue to support and cooperate with Iran in curbing militancy and fighting extremism and terrorism.
In a sign of how heated the situation has become, an Iranian lawmaker representing the capital of Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province called on the Guard to carry out military operations inside Pakistan to root out militants. It's unclear whether such an operation would be considered.
In the Internet claim of responsibility, a statement in the name of Jundallah said the attack was carried out in "retaliation for the Iranian regime's crimes against the unarmed people of Baluchistan." The statement also identified the man it said carried out the attack as Abdel-Wahed Mohammadi Sarawani, suggesting he is from the small town of Sarawan, 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the Pakistani border. It also accused the Iranian government of executing many people merely because they are Sunnis or Baluchis.
In May, Jundallah said it sent a suicide bomber into a Shiite mosque in the southeastern city of Zahedan, killing 25 worshippers. Sunday's attack, however, would mark the group's highest-level target. The victims included the deputy commander of the Guard's ground forces, Gen. Noor Ali Shooshtari, as well as a chief provincial Guard commander, Rajab Ali Mohammadzadeh. The others killed were Guard members or tribal leaders, it said.
October 19, 2009
The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafary, Monday, Oct. 19, threatened "crushing" retaliation against the US, UK and Pakistan including the invasion of its eastern neighbor. Tehran links all three to the suicide bombing attack in Sistan-Baluchistan Sunday, Oct. 18, which killed 42 people including seven senior Guards officers. One was Gen. Nur Ali Shoustari, Jafari's deputy, who was identified by DEBKAfile's counter-terror sources as commander of the al Qods clandestine terror bases in Iraq, Pakistan, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
Jafary said: "Behind this scene are the American and British intelligence apparatus and there will have to be retaliatory measures to punish them."
DEBKAfile's Iranian sources note that is the first time in Iran's 30-year Islamic revolution that a military leader has gone to the extreme lengths of threatening to strike US and British military targets, a measure of the damage the regime and Guards suffered from the suicide attack, which has since been condemned and denied by Washington.
Jafari expanded on his charge by saying: "New evidence has been obtained proving the link between yesterday's terror attack and the US, British and Pakistani intelligence services." He spoke of evidence showing that all three supported the group. "A delegation would soon travel to Pakistan to present it," he said.
A military official in Tehran then suggested Iran might launch a military thrust into Pakistan against the group blamed for the attack. Lawmaker Payman Forouzesh said: "There is even unanimity that these operations (could) take place in Pakistan territory."
Tehran accuses the Sunni secessionist terrorist group Jundallah of Baluchistan, which is fighting for the predominantly Sunni province's independence, of carrying out the suicide bombing in provincial town of Pisheen near the Pakistan and Afghanistan borders. In the past, Tehran has charged the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence agency and the CIA of supporting the group. It has carried out a string of terrorist attacks on regime and Shiite targets including in 2007 a failed assassination attempt on president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
DEBKAfile's Iranian sources report that Tehran will have to make good on its threats without too much delay or lose face among the political and ethnic minority dissidents plaguing on the regime, especially those who rose up in protest against the tainted June 20 presidential election. Hesitation will be seen as weakness.
Past Iranian reprisals were usually carried against the US or Britain indirectly in the Persian Gulf or by local Islamic surrogates like Hizballah in Iraq. Jafari's words point to a more direct showdown this time by the IRGC or its terrorist arm al Qods.
October 19, 2009
The chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guard on Monday accused the United States, Britain and Pakistan of having links with the Sunni militants responsible for a homicide bombing that killed five senior Guard commanders and 37 others.
"Behind this scene are the American and British intelligence apparatus and there will have to be retaliatory measures to punish them," Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said, vowing a "crushing" response.Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said those behind Sunday's bombing are hiding across the border in Pakistan, and in a phone call with his Pakistani counterpart on Monday he demanded their arrest.
"The presence of terrorist elements in Pakistan is not justifiable and the Pakistani government needs to help arrest and punish the criminals as soon as possible," state TV quoted Ahmadinejad as telling Asif Ali Zardari.Earlier Monday, an Iranian military official went as far as to raise the prospect of a possible military offensive into Pakistan against the group blamed for the attack.
"There is even unanimity that these operations (could) take place in Pakistan territory," the ISNA news agency quoted MP Payman Forouzesh as saying.The Sunni rebel group known as Jundallah, or Soldiers of God, has waged a low-level insurgency in Iran's southeast to protest what it says is the government's persecution of an ethnic minority there claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack. The claim was posted Monday on an Islamic Web site that usually publishes Al Qaeda statements. Its authenticity could not be verified.
The official IRNA news agency said Sunday the dead included the deputy commander of the Guard's ground force, Gen. Noor Ali Shooshtari, as well as a chief provincial Guard commander for the area, Rajab Ali Mohammadzadeh. The other dead were Guard members or local tribal leaders. More than two dozen others were wounded, state radio reported.
The headquarters of Iran's armed forces blamed the bombing on "terrorists" backed by "the Great Satan America and its ally Britain," Fars News Agency said Sunday.
"Not in the distant future we will take revenge," Iran's statement read, according to Reuters. Iran's forces claim the country "will clear this region from terrorists and criminals."The United States, however, condemned the attacks on Sunday and denied any involvement.
"The global arrogance, with the provocation of its local mercenaries, targeted the meeting of the Guard with local tribal leaders," said the Guard statement read out on state TV.
"We condemn this act of terrorism and mourn the loss of innocent lives. Reports of alleged U.S. involvement are completely false," U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in a brief statement.The Revoutionary Guard commanders were inside a car on their way to a meeting with local tribal leaders in the Pishin district near Iran's border with Pakistan when an attacker with explosives blew himself up, IRNA said.
Iran's state-owned English language TV channel, Press TV, said there were two simultaneous explosions: one at the meeting and another targeting an additional convoy of Guards on their way to the gathering.
The region's top prosecutor was quoted by the semi-official ISNA news agency as saying the Sunni rebel group Jundallah claimed responsibility for the blast.
There was no immediate statement directly from the group.
The group accuses Iran's Shiite-dominated government of persecution and has carried out attacks against the Revolutionary Guard and Shiite targets in the southeast.
That campaign is one of several ethnic and religious small-scale insurgencies in Iran that have fueled sporadic and sometimes deadly attacks in recent years — though none have amounted to a serious threat to the government.
The Guard commanders targeted Sunday were heading to a meeting with local tribal leaders to promote unity between the Shiite and Sunni Muslim communities.
In April, Iran increased security in Sistan-Baluchistan Province, at the center of the tension, by placing it under the command of the Guard, which took over from local police forces.
The 120,000-strong Revolutionary Guard controls Iran's missile program and has its own ground, naval and air units.
Iran's parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, condemned the assassination of the Guard commanders, saying the bombing was aimed at disrupting security in southeastern Iran.
"We express our condolences for their martyrdom. ... The intention of the terrorists was definitely to disrupt security in Sistan-Baluchistan