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Rebel Jundallah Group Claims Responsibility for Iran Mosque Bombing

The Sunni rebel group Jundallah, which is battling the Iranian government in Sistan-Baluchistan province, has claimed responsibility for Thursday's double, suicide bombing outside of a Shi'ite mosque in the provincial capital of Zahedan. The attack killed at least 27 people and wounded about 270. The blasts took place after Iran's recent hanging of the rebel group's leader, Abdolmalek Rigi.

The Sunni rebel group Jundallah claimed responsibility Friday for twin suicide bombings at a Shi'ite mosque in Zahedan, capital of Iran's Sistan-Baluchistan province.

A statement on the group's website called the attacks a "response to the crimes and atrocities of the regime," including the recent hanging of its leader Abdolmalek Rigi.

Both suicide bombers detonated their explosives at timed intervals during prayers inside the mosque. Jundallah claimed that its operation was aimed at what it said were the "many [Iranian] Revolutionary Guard members inside the mosque."

Iranian government television denounced what it called the "barbaric" attacks perpetrated against innocent civilians. One man who survived the bombings condemned the perpetrators.

He says that those who perpetrated these awful crimes are not human and are not Muslims. He insists that the crimes were committed when innocent people were participating in a joyful religious celebration.

Sistan-Baluchistan's Sunni majority has long had tense relations with Iran's central government. Jundallah rebels have carried out numerous bloody mosque bombings in recent years.

Iranian officials have repeatedly accused the United States and Israel of supporting Jundallah. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, denounced Thursday's bombings, calling them "terrorist attacks." Jundallah also reportedly enjoys close ties with the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban.

Jundallah members say they are fighting to secure rights in the Sunni Baluchis in Shi'ite-dominated Iran.

Iran analyst Meir Javedanfar of the MEEPAS Center in Tel Aviv notes that Jundallah claims to be defending the Sunni Muslim causes:

"Jundallah plays on the Sunni card," said Meir Javedanfar. "It says that it's defending Sunni rights in Iran. Therefore, by attacking a Shi'ite mosque, it would be trying to make a point, by saying that it's targeting the people who are oppressing it. However, targeting a mosque full of innocent people, I wonder how it's going to help them, unless the people who were killed were military officials."

Former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani Sadr, who lives in exile in France, insists Jundallah's acts of terrorism stem from the Iranian government's mistaken policies of oppression in Sistan-Baluchistan:

He says that fact that these explosions occurred after the hanging of Rigi proves that the government's actions weren't wise. This terrorism, he argues, is born of a tyrannic relationship between the regime and its people, and the relationship must change for the terrorism to stop. He stresses that the Iranian government uses violence in Sistan-Baluchistan and that violence only begets more violence.