Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Breaking news: Bomb kills 11 during military parade

At least eleven people were killed in a bomb blast during a military parade in Mahabad, West Azerbaijan province, on Wednesday morning, 22 September 2010, according to various state and opposition news outlets. The Arabic-language Al Alam news channel, a subsidiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, was one of the first sources to break the news and reported that the blast had occurred at 10:30 AM, local time.

The photo above shows spectators on the official parade stand looking and pointing to the right, where the explosion took place a second before.

Immediately after the blast, Vahid Jalalzadeh, the provincial governor, told Mehr News by telephone that since the event had occurred only an hour earlier he had no exact figures on casualties or the manner in which the attack had occurred. He added, however, 'This incident was carried out by counter-revolutionaries in the women's section during the armed forces parade.' On this date, the regime's armed forces participate in annual ceremonies marking the start of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980.

Footage broadcast by IRIB's Channel 1 showed troops marching at the moment of the explosion -- though not the blast itself -- and the immediate aftermath.

In later interviews, Jalalzadeh said that the explosion had taken place 50 meters from the official stand at the parade. He set the provisional toll at 10 dead and 20 injured, four of them in critical condition.The numbers have since been revised by Issa Ghanbari, the province's deputy governor in charge of security and military affairs, to 11 dead and 32 injured. Ghanbari told the Islamic Students' News Agency that the bomb was placed in a handbag, but other news sources have reported that the device was hanging from a tree next to the sidewalk.

Women constituted most of the casualties, according to Jalalzadeh, who said that the injured were being transferred to hospitals. 'None of the troops attending the ceremony were harmed,' he said.

According to General Nosrati, West Azerbaijan's military commander, the explosion took place among female spectators who had come to watch the parade. Jalalzadeh later added that two of the dead were the wives of senior military commanders.

Jalalzadeh told Fars News, close to the Revolutionary Guards, that the operation was a form of revenge exacted on the people. 'Last week, the ever-present people of Mahabad, through their spontaneous demonstration, condemned the insult to the sacred Koran,' he said in reference to a government-sponsored rally protesting a small US church's plans to burn the Koran. 'This bomb explosion shows that the enemy is enraged.' In the Channel 1 footage posted above, Jalalzadeh blamed the US and other foreign governments of being behind the terrorist attack, at least by virtue of their aid to Kurdish armed groups and the Mujahedin Khalgh Organization.

In line with Governor Jalalzadeh, other officials and pro-regime news sites have been quick to point the finger of blame on a broad spectrum of the usual, and sometimes contradictory, suspects.

Raja News, close to the Ahmadinejad government, quoted Deputy Governor Fakhrali Nikbakht as saying that the operation was a suicide attack. Raja based itself on a Fars News interview which did not make any such claim.

Fars News has been minimizing the news and does not feature it on its front page, although it has been attributing the attack to 'enemies of the Iranian people,' counter-revolutionaries, terrorists, and 'groupuscules.' Armed Kurdish groups, particularly Pejak, are active in the area, though, as far as this blog has been able to ascertain, they have never organized a bomb attack on civilians. Mahabad has a large Kurdish and Sunni population.