Suicide bomb in Iran kills 42

Carly Nyst
19 October 2009

At least 42 people, including senior Revolutionary Guard Corps officers, were killed, and dozens injured, in a suicide bombing in the south-east of Iran on Sunday. State media reported that Sunni insurgency group, Jundallah, had claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place in the Sustan-Baluchistan province, an area long plagued by attacks by Sunni insurgents against the Iranian military. The suicide bombers targeted the group of Revolutionary Guard leaders as they prepared to meet tribal leaders in the Pishin district, close to the Pakistani border. The deputy commander of the Guards' ground force, General Noor Ali Shooshtari, and the Guards' chief provincial commander, Rajab Ali Mohammadzadeh, were among at least six officers killed in the attack.

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The ToD verdict: In the hours after the bombings occurred, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials kicked off the blame game, alleging that the United States' Central Intelligence Agency bears responsibility for establishing Jundallah, an organization some experts believe has ties to al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani echoed Ahmedinejad's claims, contending that ‘US action' contributed to the attack. Reuters reported that Iranian officials also accused Britain of involvement. The US responded by condemning the attack and labelling Iran's accusations as "completely false".

Next to be targetted was Pakistan, which backed Sunni Muslim insurgent groups in Afghanistan in the 1980s, as well as an insurgency against Indian forces in the disputed Kashmir region. Following Sunday's bombing, Ahmadinejad alleged intelligence revealed ‘that some security agents in Pakistan are cooperating with the main elements of this terrorist incident' and demanded Pakistan apprehend and turn over to Iran ‘the main elements in this terrorist attack'. Iranian authorities summoned a senior Pakistani diplomat in Tehran to discuss the issue.

Pakistan's prime minister, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, publicly condemned the attack, which he called a ‘ghastly act of terrorism'. Pakistan dismissed Iranian claims that they were harbouring Jundallah's leader, with foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit denying it was ‘involved in terrorist activities'. Pakistan also reportedly ensured Iran it will take all measures to secure its border.

As Iran continues to apportion foreign responsibility for the attacks, there are fears that Sunday's bombings risk overshadowing talks between Iranian and Western officials, scheduled to take place in Vienna on Monday, which are aimed at resolving a standoff arising Iran's nuclear ambitions. There are hopes that a deal might be finalized at the meeting whereby Iran will send uranium abroad for enrichment above a certain percentage, a deal to which Iran agreed in principle during a previous round of talks in Geneva earlier this month. However, the recent accusations by Iran of foreign involvement in the Sunni insurgency have the potential to derail the talks and put at risk a possible amicable settlement of the nuclear issue.

Civilians flee as Pakistan launches South Waziristan offensive

Approximately 100,000 civilians fled targeted areas of South Waziristan over the weekend as Pakistani forces pounded the area with heavy artillery in an attempt to wrest control of Taliban strongholds. The army reported that sixty militants and five soldiers had been killed in the first 24 hours of the long-anticipated offensive, although there is no independent verification of the casualty toll. There is an estimated 10,000 Taliban in the area, including 1,000 Uzbek fighters and al-Qaeda members, the principal targets of the offensive. Pakistan forces battling the militants number about 28,000.

Reuters reported that about 100,000 civilians had fled the area in anticipation of the attack, which represents about one fifth of the population of South Waziristan. There are concerns that aid - including fresh water and medicine - is struggling to reach those who need it, raising the risk that disease will easily spread. However, there are not yet any indications that the refugee flow will escalate to crisis level, last seen following offensives in the Swat Valley earlier this year provoked the flight of over two million civilians.

South Sudan village raided, seven die

Armed men raided a village in South Sudan on Sunday, killing seven people and burning 120 houses, in a further example of heightened inter-tribal violence. The attack has been labelled as yet another act of retaliation in a pattern of violence that has killed more than 1,200 people this year. While politicians have sought to apportion blame to rival political parties, accused of trying to cement support in the lead up to elections next year and a southern referendum on secession in 2011, the UN has indicated that the violence seems largely local, caused by a security vacuum in the remote southern area.

Gun battles and bombings in southern Russia

Regions of southern Russia were host to two separate bombings and two gunfights on Monday, raising concerns about the ability of the Kremlin to manage security in its Muslim-majority provinces. The gun battles in the North Caucasus region left four militants dead in Dagestan and Chechnya.  Also in Dagestan, a man lost both arms when the bomb he was attempting to plant under a gas pipeline exploded, while in Magas, the capital of Ingush, no one was harmed when a bomb exploded close to a police checkpoint. The attacks have served to confirm the fear, held by many, that the area is greatly at risk of descending into civil war.

UN passes resolution in support of Gaza report

The United Nations Human Rights Council has passed a resolution backing Richard Goldstone's report into the Israeli offensive in Gaza in January, which calls for credible investigations by Israel and Hamas and raises the spectre of international war crimes prosecutions. The United States and Israel opposed official endorsement of the report, saying that it would be counterproductive to Middle East peace efforts. Despite UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay's support for the report, the Israeli government lobbied members intensively to oppose the resolution. In the final vote, six opposed the resolution, eleven countries abstained and five others - including the UK and France- chose not to vote, but the support of 26 members ensured its ratification.


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