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Bomb on Iranian aircraft defused

SECURITY personnel defused a homemade bomb found on an aircraft making a domestic flight in Iran late on Saturday, Iranian media said, two days after a mosque bombing killed 25 people in the country's southeast.

The incident occurred less than two weeks before the country holds a presidential election in which the conservative incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, faces a challenge from reformers.

"The enemies want to create a security-threat environment before the country's presidential election and to create hopelessness among people," Mohammad Hassan Kazemi, a commander in the Revolutionary Guards in charge of aviation security, told the official IRNA news agency.

The semi-official Fars news agency said the device was defused after the Tehran-bound Kish Air aircraft carrying 131 passengers made an emergency landing in the southwestern city of Ahvaz.

"The plot ... was unsuccessful due to the security forces' awareness and those behind it were arrested," IRNA said, without giving more details.

Ahvaz is the capital of Khuzestan province, where many of Iran's oil fields are located. The province borders Iraq and is home to the mainly Shi'ite Muslim country's Arab minority.

A bombing in a popular Shi'ite mosque in the southeastern city of Zahedan last Thursday killed 25 people and wounded more than 120. Three men convicted of involvement in the mosque bombing were executed in public last Saturday in Zahedan.

A Sunni opposition group named Jundollah (God's Soldiers), which Iran says is part of the al-Qaida network, said it was behind the bombing, according to Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television.

Iran has previously accused the United States of supporting Sunni rebels operating on its border with Pakistan.

Jundollah says it fights for the rights of Iran's minority Sunni population.

Kazemi said he could not confirm whether there was a connection between the plane incident and the mosque bombing.


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