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Updated: October 18, 2009 21:10 IST

Iran’s elite force suffers major blow

Atul Aneja
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In this undated photo provided by the semi-official Iranian Fars News Agency, Deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's ground force, Gen. Noor Ali Shooshtari is seen. A suicide bomber killed a number of senior commanders of the elite Revolutionary Guard and at least 15 others in an area of southeastern Iran on Sunday. The official IRNA news agency said the dead included Gen. Shooshtari.
AP In this undated photo provided by the semi-official Iranian Fars News Agency, Deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's ground force, Gen. Noor Ali Shooshtari is seen. A suicide bomber killed a number of senior commanders of the elite Revolutionary Guard and at least 15 others in an area of southeastern Iran on Sunday. The official IRNA news agency said the dead included Gen. Shooshtari.

Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) suffered a major blow on Sunday when a suicide bomber assassinated at least five top commanders of the elite force in a province that borders Pakistan and Afghanistan.

A second explosion targeted another set of commanders between the towns of Sarbaz and Chabahar, Iran’s state-run Press TV reported. Both attacks took place in the Pishin region in the turbulent Sistan-Baluchistan province.

Reports in the Iranian media said that in the first strike, Nour-Ali Shoushtari, deputy commander of the IRGC ground forces and Rajab-Ali Mohammadzadeh, a provincial commander of the Sistan-Baluchistan province were killed. The semi-official Fars news agency said two corps commanders and a brigade commander were also listed among the dead. Preliminary figures suggest that up to 29 people have been killed and another 28 injured in the strike.

According to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), the attacker detonated his explosives when the commanders were inside a car on their way to a meeting, apparently with Sunni and Shia tribal leaders.

Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani blamed the United States for a role in the strike. In an open session of Parliament which was broadcast live on state radio, he said: “We consider the recent terrorist attack to be the result of U.S. action. This is a sign of America’s animosity against our country. Mr. Obama has said he will extend his hand towards Iran, but with this terrorist action he has burned his hand,” he said, in reference to U.S. President Barack Obama.

Iranian TV had earlier claimed that Britain was directly involved in the incident.

Press TV said the separatist group Jundallah, led by Abdolmalik Rigi, has claimed responsibility for the deadly bombing. Analysts point out that in the past, Jundallah, a hardline Sunni group, which reportedly has links with the U.S., has been accused of stoking sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shias in Iran’s sensitive border province.

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