According to the Government-controlled Iranian media, 30 persons were killed and over 180 injured on May 28, 2009, in a suspected suicide bomb blast at the Amir-al Momenin Shia mosque in Zahidan, the capital of Iranian Balochistan, called Sistan-Balochistan. It is the second largest Shia mosque in Zahidan. Mainly Shia Government servants and members of the security forces pray there.
2. The province of Sistan-Balochistan has around 3.5 million Balochs, the majority of them Sunnis. The province has been the scene of frequent incidents of violence unconnected with the liberation struggle being waged by the Balochs in Pakistan's Balochistan province for over three years now. There are close ethnic and religious links between the two Baloch communities on both sides of the Pakistan-Iran border. Iranian Balochistan also has a common border with Afghanistan.
3. Ali Mohammad Azad, the Governor-General of the province, was quoted by the Iranian Fars news agency as saying: "It was a terrorist attack. The bomb was exploded by a terrorist. Soon after the explosion, members of a terrorist group who wanted to get out of Zahidan were arrested."
4. The responsibility for the violent incidents in Iranian Balochistan in the past had been claimed by an organisation called Jondollah (Soldiers of Allah), which projects itself as the People's Resistance Movement of Iran and not as the People's Resistance Movement of Sistan-Balochistan. It has no links with any of the Baloch nationalist organisations in the Balochistan province of Pakistan. In the past, there were reports of its having links with the anti-Shia Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi of Pakistan. In the 1990s, there were reports that a major explosion in the province was organised by Ramzi Yousef, who is now undergoing imprisonment in the US for his involvement in the attempt to blow up the World Trade Centre in New York in February, 1993. The Jondollah seems to be more a Sunni extremist than a Baloch nationalist organisation.
5. The Jondollah has claimed that 130 members of the Iranian security forces were actually killed in the Zahidan attack. A statement attributed to Jondollah says: "This incident has been organised in response to one week of Omar Denunciation Ceremonies which the fanatic Shias and security forces organised to curse Omar, the second Caliph, whom they blame for killing Fatema, the daughter of Prophet Mohammad. The false and fabricated narrative has been officially recognized in Iran as a fact and therefore, Iranian authorities have initiated a large number of denunciation ceremonies in which the second Caiph is cursed by the speakers and audience; even though Ayatollah Khamenaei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, announced three weeks ago that any action that may generate divisions among Moslems is treason. The Shia leaders and followers are famous for what they call Taghiya, which means lying for the sake of Islam but now it has been turned in Iran as an official way of misleading and deceiving the public and opponents, saying something in the public and doing something else. If the supreme leader really believed in what he said, organising such incidents should have been prohibited by law and if anybody acted against the law, should have been arrested and tried for generating severe divisions among Moslems. The authorities have blamed the US for hiring terrorists who carried out the suicide bombing. Jondollah categorically rejects this claim. It does not have any kind of relationship or any kind of support from the US or any other country. This action was in response to systematic and regular insults to the beliefs of Sunni Muslims in Iran and wide discrimination against the Baloch people. We reject the Government’s claim that we are a terrorist organization. We are a defensive organization and act according to international law of self-defence by the same strategy and equipments the Iranian governments are using against us. Several religious leaders and hundreds of Baloch youth have been killed or hanged by the Islamic Republic of Iran just for their beliefs after severe and long torture. The Islamic Republic of Iran has destroyed several Sunni mosques and has hanged several top religious leaders of Sunni people in Iran."
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com)