Tensions run high in Iranian city

Atul Aneja

Tehran says U.S., U.K. behind violence in ethnically sensitive province

DUBAI: Tensions are running high in the Iranian city of Zahedan where police and armed militants have been clashing following a bomb attack.

The latest round of fighting follows Wednesday's car bombing in the city, which killed 11 soldiers belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Zahedan is the capital of the Sistan-Baluchistan province, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Iran has a majority Shia population but there is a large Sunni population in this province.

Group owns attack

A hardline Sunni group, Jundallah, has claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attack.

Officials said a "percussion bomb" which makes a loud noise but does not cause much damage had exploded on Saturday.

Iranian authorities have blamed the United States and Britain of fomenting violence in the country's ethnically sensitive border provinces.

There have been several bomb blasts in Iran's oil-rich Kuzestan province, which borders Iraq.

Sporadic unrest has also been reported in the past in Iran's bordering areas with Azerbaijan.

Iran's Fars news agency quoted the provincial police commander, Mohammad Ghaffari, as saying that 68 persons had been arrested for Wednesday's attack. He added that police had recovered a number of weapons and explosives from a Jundallah hideout, which had been raided. Police has often clashed in Zahedan with drug traffickers engaged in ferrying opium from Afghanistan.