Reuters: Iran said on Tuesday it had arrested more than 20 people in connection with deadly weekend bombings in southern Iran which the government has blamed on Britain. Reuters
By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN – Iran said on Tuesday it had arrested more than 20 people in connection with deadly weekend bombings in southern Iran which the government has blamed on Britain.
Saturday’s blasts outside a shopping mall in the city of Ahvaz killed six people and wounded 100 and have prompted calls from Iran’s hardline press for Tehran to sever ties with London.
The incident has led to a new nadir in relations between Britain and Iran, already strained by London’s criticism of Tehran’s atomic programme and British accusations that Iran has helped Iraqi insurgents carry out bomb attacks against British troops.
Britain denies any links to the bombings as well as a series of other attacks and unrest earlier this year in the ethnic-Arab dominated Khuzestan province which borders southern Iraq and contains the bulk of Iran’s oil reserves.
“More than 20 people who were involved in Saturday’s bombings have been identified and arrested,” Khuzestan Governor Amir Hayat Moqaddam told the official IRNA news agency.
“Based on our investigations they have links to foreigners,” he said.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated his view that Britain was linked to the attacks.
“We have no reason to believe that Britain was not involved in the recent incident,” the ISNA students news agency quoted him as telling journalists on Tuesday.
“We are very well aware of such countries’ behavior. Terrorist acts and insecurity are among the methods used by occupying countries like the UK,” he added.
Iranian officials say Britain wants to use instability in Khuzestan to put pressure on Iran over its nuclear ambitions and to destabilise the country’s clerical rulers.
Iran says its nuclear programme will be used purely for peaceful purposes. It also denies British and U.S. charges of meddling in Iraq.
The semi-official Mehr news agency said police found and defused a homemade bomb in a bookshop in Ahvaz on Tuesday night.
A larger cache of explosives and grenades was found under a bridge in Ahvaz earlier on Tuesday, an Interior Ministry official said.
Kayhan, one of Iran’s four leading hardline newspapers, called on the government to break off diplomatic relations with London.
“We should start with mild reactions like closing the British embassy and eventually sever the ties,” it said in an editorial.
The hardline Siyasat-e Rouz newspaper agreed.
“It is clear that Britain is behind the southern Iran bombings,” the daily said in an editorial. “Severing ties is the minimum we can do to prevent Britain’s interference in Iran.”