Monday, June 13, 2005

NY Times: Iran Makes Arrests Linked to Deadly Bombings

NY Times:
Iran's minister of intelligence said today that several suspects had been arrested in connection with four bombings on Sunday in the southern city of Ahvaz, which left eight people dead. But he said that there were no links between those bombings and three others later on Sunday in Tehran.

The bombings in Ahvaz also wounded 75 people. Two women and a 4-year-old child were among the dead. The Tehran explosions killed two people and wounded two others.

The intelligence minister, Ali Younessi, said the bombings were meant to intimidate people so that they would not vote in the country's presidential election on Friday. On Sunday, the country's Supreme National Security Council blamed what it called terrorist groups linked to Saddam Hussein, the deposed Iraqi leader, for the Ahvaz bombings.

"We have some clues and we have arrested many of those involved in the incidents in Khuzistan," the area in which Ahvaz is located, the Iranian Student News Agency quoted Mr. Younessi as saying. "Some of those who were in touch with foreign countries are in prison now."

But he added that the ministry had found no links between the three explosions in Tehran and the violence in Ahwaz. "It is not clear yet what the explosive in the garbage bin in Tehran was and whether it was of a terrorist nature," he was quoted as saying.

Although there had been some speculation on Sunday that the Ahvaz bombings might be linked to rumors that the government wanted to relocate some of the region's Arab population, neither government officials nor political analysts gave any credence to that possibility in remarks today. At least one analyst indicated, though, that it was more likely that the bombings were related to the fading hopes of conservatives that they would win the presidential election.

Recent polls suggested that Mostafa Moin, who is running on a reform platform, is running second to the pragmatic cleric Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and might be able to nudge out the hard-line candidate, Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf, if the election goes to a runoff, as political analysts expect.

Several reformist politicians who were campaigning for Mr. Moin have suffered beatings by suspected hard-line vigilantes in the past few days.

Four bombs, similar to the ones that exploded in Tehran on Sunday, went off in the religious city of Qum last Wednesday, though without casualties. One newspaper report said that five hard-line students of a prominent cleric had been arrested in connection with those bombings. The deputy interior minister for security affairs, Ali Asghar Ahmadi, said, though, that initial investigations suggested that the methods used in the Ahvaz bombings were similar to those that Iraqi intelligence used in the region during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988. READ MORE

Rumors of bomb threats in Tehran and the industrial city of, Karaj, continued today.

Tehran's police received at least 12 calls about suspicious packages, the Iranian Student News agency reported. The capital's main subway was shut down for 15 minutes after an unattended package was found at one of the stations. An anonymous caller telephoned the police station in Karaj to make several bomb threats.

A hard-line member of Parliament, Gholam Reza Mesbahi Moghadam, told the Iranian Student News Agency that the United States was behind the attacks.
"The United States has provoked these attacks because the Americans are in charge of the security in Iraq and they support anti-Iran forces which are equipped and supported by the Americans," he was quoted as saying, adding, "The Americans want to create instability in Iran so that people would not be able to go to the polls with peace of mind."