Iran General NewsIran officials fret over rise in violence

Iran officials fret over rise in violence

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ImageWall Street Journal: A homemade bomb found aboard an Iranian plane Sunday follows a string of incidents in Iran that are raising concerns about rising sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites ahead of the June 12th presidential election.

The Wall Street Journal

By FARNAZ FASSIHI

ImageA homemade bomb found aboard an Iranian plane Sunday follows a string of incidents in Iran that are raising concerns about rising sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites ahead of the June 12th presidential election.

The recent violence, scattered along Iran's borders with Iraq and Pakistan, has revived longstanding fears among Iranian officials that sectarian violence within those countries could spill over into Shiite-majority Iran, which hasn't had a recent history of such strife.

On Saturday, a homemade bomb was found on a domestic Kish Air flight flying from the southern city of Ahwaz — home to many of the country's minority Arab Sunni population — to the capital, Tehran.

The plane, with 140 passengers, was forced to return 15 minutes after takeoff when security agents discovered a suspicious package in the lavatory. The bomb was defused, and no one was hurt.

Just hours before the incident, former President Mohamad Khatami flew the same route. Mr. Khatami, who was initially a presidential candidate for June's election but then pulled out, had been in Ahwaz campaigning for reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Iranian officials said the bomb was unrelated to Mr. Khatami's visit, and it wasn't immediately known whether Mr. Khatami had flown Kish Air.

On Thursday, an explosion rocked a Shiite mosque in the southern city of Zahedan, near the Pakistani border and with a Sunni minority. The bomb killed 25 worshippers and wounded 80. One day later, gunmen opened fire at campaign offices of conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the same city, injuring three.

"Our enemies are trying to create divisions among Sunnis and Shiites in Iran and create insecurity ahead of the elections," said the lieutenant commander of Iran's Airports Security Corps, according to Fars News Agency.

Transportation officials said airports and public-transportation venues around the country were now on high security alert.

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