Angry Iranian mourners blame Britain for bombings
By Paul Hughes
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Thousands of Iranian mourners directed
their anger at Britain on Monday at the funerals of six people
killed in weekend bombings which Iran’s president has blamed on
State television images showed mourners chanting “Death to
Britain” as they carried the coffins of those killed in
Saturday’s twin blasts through the streets of the southwestern
city of Ahvaz, where the attacks occurred.
Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who won June
elections pledging a tougher foreign policy and crackdown on
corruption, said on Sunday Iran was “very suspicious about the
role of British forces” in the bombings.
Britain has denied any involvement in the blasts, which
were the latest in a spate of small bombings and unrest in the
partially Arab-speaking Khuzestan province bordering southern
Iraq, the traditional heartland of Iran’s oil industry.
Relations between Tehran and London have deteriorated
sharply in recent weeks over Britain’s support for U.S. moves
to refer Iran’s nuclear case to the U.N. Security Council and
accusations that Iran was linked to insurgent attacks on
British troops in Iraq.
Tehran denies seeking nuclear weapons or meddling in Iraq.
“They might think that by doing such things we will forget
about (our pursuit of) nuclear energy,” an unidentified woman
told state television in Ahvaz.
“But let me tell them that we will follow (the example of)
these martyrs,” she said.
Men beat their chests in grief and shouted “God is
Greatest” at the funeral procession.
The homemade bombs were left in rubbish bins outside a busy
shopping mall and detonated three minutes apart, wounding
almost 100 people and damaging several cars and shop fronts.
“Crisis in Iran-Britain relations,” the front-page headline
of the moderate Sharq daily read.
“The accent of the Ahvaz bombings” said Etemad newspaper,
referring to a military commander’s remark that the sound of
the blasts “had a British accent.”
Many politicians said the presence of 8,000 British troops
in neighboring Iraq was the root cause of this year’s violence
in Khuzestan and accused them of training and aiding opposition
separatist groups to carry out the attacks.
“So far 12 people have been arrested,” said Javad
Saadounzadeh, parliamentarian for the city of Abadan, close to
Ahvaz. “They have openly said they have been trained by Israeli
and British intelligence services in Basra,” he told the
hardline Siyasat-e Rouz newspaper.
But not all were keen to pin the blame on London.
“Accusing a country without documents will have negative
impact on relations between Iran and Britain,” Mahmoud
Mohammadi, a member of parliament’s National Security and
Foreign Affairs commission, told Reuters.
Asked whether the accusations against Britain were related
to Iran’s nuclear standoff with the West he said: “I hope not.
If Iran’s accusation is politically motivated, it could have a
negative political impact and will damage the international
community’s trust in Iranian officials’ remarks.”
(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi, Alireza Ronaghi)