Blast, clashes in Iran’s Baluchistan

We noted earlier this week signs of an emerging ethnic insurgency in Iran’s eastern province of Baluchistan. Now news reports make reference not only to bombs, but “insurgents.” We didn’t expect to vindicated so quickly. From AP, Feb. 16:

TEHRAN — A bomb exploded in southeastern Iran late Friday, near the site where an explosion this week killed 11 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, and clashes broke out afterward between Iranian police and insurgents, Iranian news agencies reported.

“The sound of a bomb explosion was heard in one of Zahedan’s streets,” IRNA, Iran’s official news agency, reported. The report gave no further details, including whether there were casualties. The semiofficial Fars news agency said the explosion was at a school and was followed by clashes.

“The insurgents began shooting at people after the explosion. Clashes are continuing between police and the armed insurgents,” the Fars agency said.

On Wednesday, a car bomb blew up a bus owned by the elite Revolutionary Guards in Zahedan, capital of the Sistan-Baluchestan province on the border with Pakistan.

A Sunni Muslim militant group called Jundallah, or God’s Brigade, which has been blamed for past attacks on Iranian troops, claimed responsibility for the Wednesday bombing.

Iran has accused the United States of backing militants to destabilize the country. The accusation come amid growing tensions between Iran and the United States over the insurgency in Iraq and Iran’s nuclear activities.

Separately, IRNA quoted an unnamed “responsible official” late Friday as saying that one of those arrested in Wednesday’s bombing has “confessed” that the attacks were part of alleged U.S. plans to provoke ethnic and religious violence in Iran.

“This person who was behind the bombing confessed that those who trained them spoke in English,” IRNA quoted the official as saying.

The agency did not identify the official nor the person arrested in Wednesday’s bombing but said his group had planned to kill local Sunni Muslim leaders to provoke religious violence in Iran.

A majority of Iran’s population are Shiite Muslims but minority Sunnis live in southeastern Iran.

See our last post on Iran.