By Elizabeth Arrott
Deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s ground force, Gen. Noor Ali Shooshtari is among those killed in the attack, Sunday, 18 Oct. 2009
Iranian state media report that a suicide bomber in the troubled southeast killed at least 30 people early Sunday, including six commanders of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard force.
Iranian state media say the suicide bomb blast killed the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards ground forces and the commander of the Guards in the troubled Sistan Baluchistan region, which borders Pakistan.
The reports say the attacker targeted people gathering in the city of Pisheen for a reconciliation meeting between local Shi’ite and Sunni leaders. Minority Sunni groups, in particular ethnic Baluchis, have long complained of discrimination in the Shi’ite dominated country.
The chief prosecutor in the region was quoted as saying the Sunni insurgent group Jundallah, or Soldiers of God, claimed responsibility for the attack. There has been no direct word from the group, which has carried out anti-government attacks in the past.
Paul Ingram, co-director of the London-based British-American Security Information Council, notes that similar attacks have been going on for years. But he says this one stands out. "This is a very unusual attack in as much as it appears to be a successful attack upon the Revolutionary Guards at such a high level involving so many of the senior officers," he said.
Iran’s speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani, accused the United States of being behind the attacks.
The U.S. State Department condemned what it called "this act of terrorism" and mourned the loss of innocent lives. It said allegations of U.S. involvement were "completely false."
Security analyst Paul Ingram says such allegations are problematic. "It is very difficult to really pin down and there have been these sorts of accusations from the Revolutionary Guards in the past," he said.
Ingram notes the Iranian government has an interest in deflecting blame to foreign elements.
Tehran is under pressure both at home, over the disputed presidential election in June, and abroad, for its controversial nuclear program, which the United States suspects could be aimed at developing nuclear weapons.
Iran, which denies that charge, has recently agreed to allow western inspectors to look at a newly revealed uranium enrichment facility and has been holding talks with the United States and other western nations on ways to ease concerns about its nuclear program.