From The Telegraph (U.K.):
A bomb attack on Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard that killed over 40 people including top generals was carried out by terrorists trained by America and Britain in nearby Pakistan, a senior commander said on Monday.
“The terrorists were trained in the neighbouring country by the Americans and British,” General Mohammad Pakpour, head of the Guard’s ground forces, told state television. “The enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran are unable to tolerate the unity in the country.”
Gen Pakpour, whose deputy Gen Nour Ali Shoushtari was the most senior officer killed in the attack, said there would be retribution.
“The Guards will give a very harsh and crushing response to this group, so the group will never be able to launch another act like this in the country,” he said.
The Islamic regime in Iran regularly blames all opposition on America and Britain, but there have been claims outside the country for a number of years that the Bush administration provided funding to Jundullah, the militant group which claimed responsibility for the attack on Sunday.
A suicide bomber detonated explosives at a sports hall in Sistani-Baluchistan province, near the Pakistan border, where the Guard officers were meeting tribal leaders, purportedly to promote ethnic unity.
State television said today that at least 42 people died, including ten local tribal leaders and at least five senior Guard officers, and dozens were wounded. The injured were flown to the nearest hospitals more than 120 miles away.
The meeting was said to be intended to win support against terrorism from the local Baluchi, Sunni Muslim minority, which Jundullah claims to represent. But the region is also a base for drugs and smuggling, banditry and kidnapping.
Its closeness to both Pakistan and Afghanistan makes it a particularly sensitive area. Iran, Pakistan and its American backers all accuse each other of sponsoring terrorism across the Middle East and in Afghanistan in pursuit of their strategic goals.
Gen Shoushtari as well as being deputy head of its ground forces was also senior in its al-Quds, or Jerusalem, Brigade. The brigade is the force’s special unit to oversee Iran’s foreign ventures and thus at the heart of what Washington says is Iran’s terror-supporting activities.
Pakistani and Iranian relations have improved in recent years, but Iran claims that while the United States, and possibly Saudi Arabia, may have funded Jundullah, as they did with the Mujahidin in Afghanistan, the Pakistanis, or elements in its military, provide the logistics.
On Sunday night, a senior Pakistani diplomat in Tehran was summoned and informed Iran had evidence the attacker came over the border. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed security agents in Pakistan were co-operating with the group.
Pakistan’s government condemned the attack, and its foreign ministry denied being involved in terrorist activities. “We are striving to eradicate this menace,” a spokesman said.
The Pakistani military are themselves involved in an all-out offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan.
The United States also denied being involved in the attack, which the state department said it condemned. The Foreign Office also condemned the bombing.
The attack threatened to overshadow a resumption of talks today on Iran’s nuclear programme.
A spokesman for the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency denied that the negotiations with Russia, the United States and France would lead to an end to the country’s uranium enrichment programme.
“Buying nuclear fuel from abroad does not mean Iran will stop its uranium enrichment activities inside the country,” a spokesman said.
The talks aim to cement a deal whereby enrichment to 20 per cent, the level needed to run nuclear power reactors, would be carried out abroad in return for guarantees Iran would not attempt further enrichment to the much higher levels needed for nuclear weapons.