Bomb­ing at Ira­nian mar­tial pa­rade kills at least 12

Los Angeles Times - - The World - Bor­zou Dara­gahi re­port­ing from beirut dara­gahi@latimes.com

A bomb­ing at a mar­tial pa­rade in western Iran on Wed­nes­day killed at least 12 peo­ple, in­clud­ing a 5-yearold and the wives of two Ira­nian mil­i­tary com­man­ders. The ex­plo­sion struck amid a large crowd at­tend­ing the event, which was in­tended to un­der­score the nation’s bat­tle readi­ness.

An ad­di­tional 75 peo­ple were in­jured, at least 12 se­ri­ously, in what of­fi­cials de­scribed as a “ter­ror­ist at­tack.” No one im­me­di­ately claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the bomb­ing, which oc­curred in the restive eth­nic Kur­dish city of Mahabad about 40 miles east of the border with Iraq.

Ira­nian of­fi­cials quickly pointed to the U.S., and the lo­cal Fri­day prayer leader blamed “Zion­ists.”

“As the in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­di­cate, the at­tack has for­eign back­ing,” Gov. Vahid Jalalzadeh of West Azer­bai­jan prov­ince, where Mahabad is lo­cated, told state TV. “Un­for­tu­nately, the Amer­i­cans and their al­lies are in the re­gion. From the first day of their pres­ence and their slo­gan to es­tab­lish se­cu­rity in the re­gion, we can see that the un­rest has in­creased.”

U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton in turn con­demned the bomb­ing. “The per­pe­tra­tors of this at­tack should be brought to jus­tice and held ac­count­able,” she said. “The United States con­demns ter­ror­ism and all forms of vi­o­lence against in­no­cent peo­ple, wher­ever it oc­curs.”

Ac­cord­ing to Ira­nian me­dia, the bomb struck pedes­tri­ans gath­ered along a side­walk to watch an an­nual Sa­cred De­fense Week mil­i­tary pa­rade com­mem­o­rat­ing the vic­tims of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Ini­tial news ac­counts de­scribed the at­tack as a sui­cide bomb­ing. But state ra­dio later said the bomb was placed in the branches of a pine tree.

The semiof­fi­cial Mehr news agency said that the 11 a.m. ex­plo­sion took place 55 yards from the podium where mil­i­tary brass were watch­ing the pro­ceed­ings and that two of those killed were the wives of se­nior mil­i­tary com­man­ders.

Mahabad lies in Iran’s rest­less Kur­dish heart­land and car­ries enor­mous sym­bolic weight for eth­nic Kurds through­out the world. It was the cap­i­tal of a short-lived Kur­dish au­ton­o­mous re­pub­lic set up in 1946 and the birthplace of Mas­soud Barzani, the de facto leader of Iraq’s semi­au­tonomous Kur­dis­tan re­gion.

The sep­a­ratist Free Life Party of Kur­dis­tan op­er­ates in the area and has clashed with Ira­nian troops in re­cent years. The group con­demned the blast and said it was not con­nected to it.

Iran has of­ten ac­cused the U.S. of sup­port­ing the rebel group, the Ira­nian branch of the Kur­dis­tan Work­ers Party, which has been fight­ing the Turk­ish govern­ment for decades.

Kurds are be­lieved to be the world’s largest eth­nic group with­out a home­land. They have been fight­ing for au­ton­omy and cul­tural rights against the gov­ern­ments of Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria for decades.

But a nearby stretch along the Iran-Iraq border also has shel­tered Al Qaedalinked ex­trem­ist groups.

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