Thousands attend funeral of Iranian guards killed in blast

ISFAHAN: Thousands of Iranians on Saturday attended the funeral of 27 Revolutionary Guards who were killed in a suicide attack earlier this week.

The bombing targeted a busload of Revolutionary Guards in the volatile southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan near the border with Pakistan.

Isfahan’s major streets were covered with black flags attached to lamp-posts as the city prepared for the funeral and two days of mourning.

Khamenei says spies of some regional and trans-regional countries are involved in attack

Vans fixed with loudspeakers cruised streets, inviting people to attend the ceremony. “Honourable people of Isfahan, we invite you to attend the funeral of 27 of your brave sons, the martyrs of the homeland’s security,” the speakers blared, according to a reporter.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has linked the perpetrators of attack to “the spying agencies of some regional and trans-regional countries”.

When the bodies of the troops arrived on the back of vans — the guards’ signature vehicles — their comrades, women in black veils and young men in jeans were there to greet them.

Tens of thousands chanted “Down with America!” and “We will never submit!”

Iran’s flag could be seen at half-mast in Bozorgmehr Square’s southeastern side, and the crowd chanted “Allahu Akbar” each time the speaker read the names of the dead.

The troops killed in the bombing belonged to the guards’ 14th Imam Hussein Division, which is based in Isfahan province, according to Tasnim news agency.

Aged from 21 to 52, each will be buried in his hometown after the funeral.

The Revolutionary Guards accused Pakistan of supporting the perpetrators of the attack.

Commander Maj Gen Mohammad Ali Jafari while referring to the Jaish al-Adl militant group alleged at a ceremony in Isfahan City that Pakistan’s government had housed these anti-revolutionaries and threats to Islam, and that it knew where they were and they were supported by its security forces. He said if the Pakistan government did not punish them then Iran would retaliate against this anti-revolutionary force.

His comments came ahead of a planned two-day visit to Pakistan — due to begin on Sunday (today) — by Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince of Iran’s rival Saudi Arabia.

Jaish al-Adl was formed in 2012 as a successor to the Sunni extremist group Jundallah, which waged a deadly insurgency for a decade before it was severely weakened by the capture and execution of its leader Abdolmalek Rigi by Tehran in 2010.

The Wednesday attack was one of the deadliest on Iranian security forces in recent years and came just days after Iran held more than a week of celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, which overthrew the US-backed shah.

Sistan-Baluchestan has long been a flashpoint, where Baluchi separatists and jihadists carry out cross-border raids.

A Revolutionary Guard was killed and five were wounded in a Feb 2 attack claimed by Jaish al-Adl on a base of the Basij militia in the town of Nikshahr, some way from the border. One Khodarahm Heidari, who was critically wounded in that attack, passed away on Saturday, semi-official news agency ISNA reported.

On Jan 29 three members of an Iranian bomb squad sent to the scene of an explosion in the provincial capital Zahedan were wounded when a second device blew up as they were trying to defuse it, police said at the time.

And in early December two people were killed and around 40 others wounded in the port city of Chabahar, also in Sistan-Baluchestan, in an attack which Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed on “foreign-backed terrorists” — a reference to Sunni extremists.

In October, Jaish al-Adl claimed responsibility for abducting 12 Iranian security personnel near the border with Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2019
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