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Iran blames 'terrorist attack' on Kurdish separatists

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Al Alam via APTN/AP

(Read caption) Debris litter the street after a bomb blast in Mahabad, Iran, in this image taken from TV, Sept 22.

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Tensions in Iran’s restive Kurdish region are likely to escalate after a bombing there Wednesday left at least 10 people dead and dozens wounded. No one has claimed responsibility yet, but officials are calling it a “terrorist attack.” At least one Iranian leader has implied that Kurdish separatists may have been involved, but no official charges have been made.

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The bomb detonated in the city of Mahabad during a military parade to showcase the nation’s might. The event was part of Iran’s Sacred Defense Week, a commemoration of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, and according to Iran’s state media, the blast killed mostly women and children, including a 5-year-old child and the wives of two Iranian military commanders. The bomb was reportedly hidden in a tree near the seating area for high-ranking military officials.

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The provincial governor, Vahid Jalalzadeh blamed the attack on “counter-revolutionaries,” a reference to Kurdish separatist groups such as the Iranian wing of the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). In a report by Press TV he added that these groups “have always carried out such brutal acts to take revenge on the people of Mahabad....”

There has been a long-running conflict between Iranian forces and Kurdish guerrillas in the area who conduct regular attacks inside Iran and Turkey. Lately reports have emerged that in recent months Iranian authorities have arrested, tried, and executed Kurdish activists in the area, reports the BBC.

Iran: Attackers backed by US

Iranians have accused the US of backing the Iranian PKK, called the Party for the Free Life of Kurdistan (PEJAK). Following Wednesday’s attack, officials were quick to blame the US, although they did not officially implicate PEJAK.

“As the investigations indicate, the attack has foreign backing. … Unfortunately, the Americans and their allies are in the region. From the first day of their presence and their slogan to establish security in the region, we can see that the unrest has increased,” said Mr. Jalalzadeh in an article by the Los Angeles Times.

Iranians have often accused the US, Britain, and other Western countries, of meddling in their internal affairs and provoking violent episodes. Most recently, Iran accused the West of inciting the unrest that followed the disputed reelection of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, reports the Associated Press.

A key city for Kurds

The city of Mahabad where the bombing took place is central to Kurds not only in Iran, but to all those spread across Iraq, Turkey, and Syria as well. The largest ethnic group without a country, Kurds have long struggled for autonomy. With Soviet backing in 1946, the Kurd’s established the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad, but Iran reclaimed the territory by 1947.

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In addition to PEJAK, there are also several other militant groups in Iran who oppose the government and could have been involved in the attack.

The most active insurgent group in Iran is the Sunni Muslim Jundollah Baluch, which Iranian authorities say has ties to Al Qaeda. In July, the group claimed responsibility for a double suicide bombing that killed 28 people. The group’s leaders said the attack was revenge for the execution of its leaders, reports Reuters.