May 14, 2006

Bandits execute 12 people by southern Iranian road

By Alireza Ronaghi

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Bandits disguised as policemen executed
12 bound men by a southern Iranian roadside and strung a
wounded 12-year-old boy from an electricity pylon, state media
reported on Sunday.

The killings happened on the desert road between the
southern cities of Kerman and Bam. Brutal bandit attacks are
rare so far from Iran's lawless borders, but common along the
Afghan and Pakistani frontier.

The motive for the killings was unclear but the murders
raised concerns about the safety of a road often used by
tourists visiting historical sites in Kerman province.

Kerman's provincial Governor Abdolmohammad Raoufinejad was
quoted by state television saying four cars, later found burned
out, had been held up at gunpoint at 9 p.m. on Saturday night,
35 km (22 miles) west of Bam.

Eight attackers bound and blindfolded their victims before
shooting them in the head, television reported. Eleven of the
corpses were flung into a ditch. One man later died of his
injuries in hospital.

Two people escaped with injuries, television reported. It
was not immediately clear if the boy strung to the pylon

Raoufinejad said the gunmen were wearing police uniforms.

Provincial officials in Kerman were not immediately
available to comment about a motive for the attack. Regional
police were also unavailable for comment.

Most banditry in Iran is associated with heavily armed drug
traffickers. The main thoroughfare for transporting Afghan
opium to Europe passes through Bam.

However, most drug-running violence happens in the
southeastern border province of Sistan-Baluchistan, which
neighbours Kerman province.

The province resembles a war-zone, dotted with forts,
trenches and machine-gun posts. More than 3,300 Iranian
security personnel have died fighting traffickers since the
1979 revolution.

In the chaos surrounding a 2003 earthquake in Bam,
authorities said bandits from Sistan-Baluchistan were heading
up into Bam to loot shattered buildings and pick up drugs
hidden in razed safe houses.

Drug traffickers from Sistan-Baluchistan made some bold
snatches of Spanish and Italian tourists in 1999, kidnapping
some from their hotels. However, the area has been regarded as
safe from such attacks in recent years.