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Bomb attack at Iranian parade kills at least 11

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A bomb exploded at a military parade in northwestern Iran on Wednesday, killing 10 spectators in an attack that one official blamed on Kurdish separatists who have fought Iranian forces in the area for decades.

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By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, September 22, 2010; 8:37 PM

TEHRAN - A bomb exploded Wednesday among spectators at an annual army parade in a restive, predominantly Kurdish city in northwestern Iran, killing 11 people and wounding at least 93, officials said.

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A Kurdish separatist group that authorities suspected of involvement denied any responsibility for the blast in the city of Mahabad, near Iran's borders with Iraq and Turkey. The explosion occurred about 10 a.m. local time during a parade commemorating the 30th anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq war.

Ten of those killed were women, and one was a child, Iranian officials said.

Iran's Arabic news channel al-Alam reported that the bomb was a timed device left in a bag along the parade route. The semiofficial Mehr News Agency said the bomb exploded in an area where VIPs were gathering to watch the parade and that the wives of two ranking Iranian military officers were among the dead.

In an unrelated incident, a doctor was assassinated Tuesday evening by men on a motorcycle while he was leaving his clinic in central Tehran, the Iranian Student News Agency reported Wednesday. The motive for the murder of Abdolreza Soudbakhsh was not immediately clear. Drive-by shootings are highly uncommon in Iran.

The explosion in Mahabad highlighted tensions in border areas and could trigger further unrest in Iran's Kurdish region, where unemployment is higher than in other parts of the Islamic Republic.

"Firemen were washing away pools of blood," a resident of Mahabad said. "Many people were being arrested."

The governor-general of West Azerbaijan province, Vahid Jalalzadeh, blamed the bombing on "counterrevolutionary" rebels, an apparent reference to Kurdish separatists.

"Counterrevolutionary groups, by inserting themselves among the people attending the armed forces parade, showed their heinous faith," the Mehr News Agency quoted Jalalzadeh as saying.

"Most of the victims were women and children," Jalalzadeh told the Islamic Republic News Agency.

The area's main Kurdish armed separatist group, the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, known as PJAK, denied any responsibility for the bombing.

Speaking by telephone with Roj TV, an international Kurdish satellite television station, PJAK official Sherzad Kamangar described the blast as a "provocation" and said such acts were not in the interests of the Kurdish people or "even the Iranian regime."

Operating from neighboring Iraq, PJAK has carried out several bombings, assassinations and other attacks, mainly aimed at members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and Kurds seen as cooperating with Iranian leaders. The group normally claims responsibility for its actions.

No group immediately acknowledged carrying out the Mahabad bombing, and no officials or military officers were reported hurt in it.

Iranian officials often accuse the United States of supporting separatist groups and supplying them with money and weapons to destabilize Iran.

In 2005, Mahabad was the scene of anti-government riots after a local man was dragged through the city by security forces. Although bombings are relatively rare in the Islamic Republic, two Sunni Muslim suicide bombers killed 28 Shiite worshippers in July in a mosque in the eastern border city of Zahedan.

Tehran police were reported to have no leads on Tuesday's drive-by shooting of Soudbakhsh, and the Ministry of Health immediately called for a thorough investigation into his murder.

In January, a physics professor was killed in Tehran when a bomb attached to a motorcycle blew up as he left his house. Massoud Ali-Mohammadi was reported to be an active supporter of Iran's opposition movement, but he was also a member of a regional scientific forum in which Israeli scientists participated. The motive for the slaying remains unclear.


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