11 Elite Iranian Troops Killed In Bombing; U.S. Role Alleged

Associated Press
Thursday, February 15, 2007

TEHRAN, Feb. 14 -- A car bomb killed 11 members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard on Wednesday in the deadliest attack in years near the Pakistani border, and Iran accused the United States of backing guerrillas to destabilize the country.

A Sunni Muslim militant group called Jundallah, or God's Brigade, which has been blamed for past attacks on Iranian troops, asserted responsibility for the bombing, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency.

A group with the same name and linked to al-Qaeda has carried out attacks in neighboring Pakistan. Iranian officials say the guerrillas in southeastern Iran find a haven in Pakistan, but it is not clear whether the two groups are connected. Pakistani officials say they are not.

The blast represented a flare-up of violence in the remote corner of Iran, near Pakistan and Afghanistan, which has long been plagued by lawlessness. The area is a key crossing point for opium from Afghanistan and there are often clashes between police and drug gangs.

Jundallah has waged a low-level insurgency in the area led by Abdulmalak Rigi, a member of Iran's ethnic Baluchi minority, a Sunni community. Rigi has said his group is fighting for the rights of impoverished Sunnis under Iran's Shiite government.

Iranian officials blamed "insurgents" and "terrorists" for Wednesday's bombing and accused the United States of backing them. "This was done by a group that gets support from America," the Islamic Republic News Agency said, quoting unidentified officials.

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