Bombing Kills Iran Revolutionary Guard Commanders

Iranian state media has reported that a suicide bomber has killed five senior commanders of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard and at least 26 others. The attack occurred in southeastern Iran, near the border with Pakistan. Host Liane Hansen speaks to John Leyne of the BBC about a suicide bombing in southeastern Iran.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Iranian state media has reported that a suicide bomber has killed five senior commanders of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard and at least 15 others. The attack occurred in southeastern Iran near the border with Pakistan.

John Leyne of the BBC joins us now from London. He was based in Iran for several years. Welcome to the program, John.

Mr. JOHN LEYNE (BBC):Good morning.

HANSEN: What do you know about this suicide bombing?

Mr. LEYNE: Well, the information we're getting is from Iranian state media. They say that members of the Revolutionary Guards, the elite military unit in Iran, were going to, or had arrived at a meeting with tribal leaders in this very troubled southeastern province of Iran, when there was one, possibly two, explosions that killed, as you said, five members of the Revolutionary Guards, five senior commanders and also some of the tribal leaders they were going to meet.

HANSEN: Was the Revolutionary Guard the primary target?

Mr. LEYNE: Well, we don't know that, but the authorities say there's admission of responsibility from a group called Jundallah, Army of God. This is a mainly Sunni Muslim insurgent group battling, of course, the Shia Muslim government of Iran. We haven't heard directly from them, but this has come from state media. They've accused them of taking part. They've also accused the United States and Britain of being involved.

These are familiar accusations. Similar accusations were made back in May when there was another attack on a mosque in this area. One can certainly say this is a very troubled area. There is this insurgency that sort of intertwines with the huge amount of drugs trade through this area, which of course is on the triangle between Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan.

So, a key route for smuggling enormous quantities of drugs through to Western Europe. At the same time, it's close to a very troubled area of Pakistan, as well, and been reports in the past of links between this Sunni Muslim group, Jundallah and elements in Pakistan, be they're the Taliban, al-Qaida or some of these elements even within possibly within the Pakistani government.

HANSEN: Explain what you mean by Iran blaming the United States and Britain.

Mr. LEYNE: Well, just that, really. Iran thinks that Britain and the United States are behind or provide support for this insurgency. It accuses these militants of acting on instructions or with funds or with other support from Britain and the United States. And specifically today they've said that support was channeled through the U.S. embassy is Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, to this group.

Now, the last time these accusations were made again, this attack in May, there was a swift denial from the State Department in Washington. However, that said, President Bush, of course, openly announced that he was providing support for opposition elements within Iran. He didn't ever specify whether it was this group or not.

And since President Obama has taken power, he's never said that the money's been taken away. So, there is some American money either going to or available to go to some sort of elements in Iran, quite who we do not know.

HANSEN: While we have you on the line, last night in news from Iran, Iranian-Canadian journalist and Newsweek freelancer Maziar Bahari was released from prison. He spent several months in jail. Do you know any more about that?

Mr. LEYNE: Only those reports that he's finally been released on bail. He's been held for a very long time. He was one of the earliest people to be arrested following the disputed election. I think he was arrested just a day or two afterwards. You know, I think, obviously, his friends around the world will be very relieved by this.

Whether it'll do any favors to tell it, to say so, but I'm sure the Iranian authorities are well aware, he's worked for the BBC, he helped produce a major documentary for the strand(ph) Panoroma just before the election, he's worked for Channel 4 News, one of the independent channels in Britain. And as you say, he also reports for Newsweek in the United States and is a very distinguished documentary maker in his own right.

HANSEN: John Leyne of the BBC in London. John, thank you very much.

Mr. LEYNE: My pleasure.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: And we have this news update: This morning, the U.S. State Department condemned the attack on Iran's Revolutionary Guards and called reports of U.S. involvement completely false.

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