05/30/2009, 00.00
IRAN
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3 men hanged for attack on Zahedan Mosque. Suspicions point to US

The 3 men condemned to death had been arrested days before the mosque attack for having smuggled explosives into Iran. The executions took place a short distance from the mosque. Ahmadinejad halts tensions between Sunnis and Shiites amid accusations of a “foreign plot”. Khamenei points to the United States. Condolences from Ban Ki-moon.

Teheran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Iran has hanged three men for orchestrating a bombing of a Zahedan mosque that killed 25 people, injuring 125 people. At the same time Iranian leaders are accusing the United States of being behind the assault.  The explosion – a suicide attack- took place May 28th last, during evening prayer, close to the Amir al-Momenin Mosque. The hangings took place this morning at 6 close to the mosque.  According to state news agency Irna, the three men confessed to “illegally bringing explosives into Iran and giving them to the main person behind the bombing”. The three were arrested days before the attack.  I tre condannati erano stati arrestati giorni prima dell’attentato. “They were convicted of being 'mohareb' [enemies of God] and corrupt on the earth and acting against national security”, said Hojatoeslam Ebrahim Hamidi, Sistan-Baluchestan public relations chief.

The Jundullah (God's soldiers) opposition group declared its responsibility for the suicide bombing. In February 2007 they killed 13 pasdaran (revolutionary guards), the parallel army that depend directly from Ahmadinejad and the ayatollah.

The mosque attack took place weeks ahead of the presidential elections.  Yesterday Ahmadinejad’s election office in Zahedan was assailed by three men armed with knives, who threatened people within the office and tore up posters.  Zahedan is a majority Sunni city within a majority Shia nation.  The Amir al-Momenin is used by the Sunni community.  The assaults appear to be aimed at undermining Ahmadinejad in the eyes of the Sunni population.  The surrounding Arab world, almost totally Sunni, is also unfavourable towards him.

In an attempt to avoid tensions that could bury his candidacy, the Iranian President immediately expressed his condolences to the victims ad warned the population against an outbreak of Sunni-Shiite tensions.  “Sunni and Shiite brothers – commented Ahmadinejad –will undoubtedly recognize and neutralize conspiracies through their vigilance”. According to the president these “conspiracies” are of foreign origin, in particular the United States and Great Britain.

This charge was also made by Jalal Sayah, deputy governor of Sistan-Baluchistan (the province of Zahedan). “According to the information obtained – he said - they were hired by America and the agents of the arrogance”. The same accusation has also been expressed by the Supreme ayatollah, Ali Khamenei, who spoke in terms of “expansionist superpowers”.  Hossein Mussavi, another presidential candidate also suspects the influence of “foreign powers”.

The United States has denied all involvement.

Rhetoric attacking foreigners is a common tool in the presidential campaign.  Last April members of Iranian Intelligence arrested a group they claim is linked to Israel and that was planning bombings ahead of the elections.

The speed with which today’s executions took place and the chorus of accusations against the US are however and indication of growing tensions within a nation that is becoming increasingly isolated from the international community because of its nuclear program that is widely feared to have a military rather than civilian purpose.  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, condemned the mosque attack and expressed his condolences and solidarity with the families of the victims.

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