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October 20, 2009

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Iran points finger over deadly blast

THE chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guard accused the United States, Britain and Pakistan yesterday of having links with Sunni militants responsible for a suicide bombing that killed five senior guard commanders and 37 others.

Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said those behind Sunday's bombing were hiding across the border in Pakistan, and in a phone call with his Pakistani counterpart yesterday he demanded their arrest.

The accusations put some strain on the normally close relationship between Iran and Pakistan, which have had differences over the issue of Islamic extremism in the past.

Yesterday'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.

The claims of US and British interference came as those two nations were taking part in talks with Iranian officials over the country's nuclear program in Vienna. The accusations, however, were not expected to complicate the talks.

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.

A claim of responsibility in the name of the group was posted yesterday on an Islamic Website that usually publishes al-Qaida statements. The posting, whose authenticity could not be verified, made no mention of any assistance from foreign powers.

In Sunday's attack, a suicide bomber struck as guard commanders were entering a sports complex to meet tribal leaders.

Revolutionary Guard Chief General Mohammad Ali Jafari vowed yesterday 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.


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