[R-G] Iran accuses US and Britain of provoking deadly tensions
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Sat Mar 18 23:42:44 MST 2006
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Agence France Presse -- English
March 18, 2006 Saturday 9:53 AM GMT
LENGTH: 451 words
HEADLINE: Iran accuses US and Britain of provoking deadly tensions
DATELINE: TEHRAN, March 18 2006
Iran on Saturday accused the United States and Britain of provoking
ethnic and religious tensions that led to the killing of 23 people in
an ambush by Afghan bandits near Iran's border with Afghanistan.
"What is clear is that the United States and Britain are behind the
events," Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi said according to
the student news agency ISNA.
"According to our reports, US and British security chiefs met with
rebel leaders and provoked them to commit such attacks."
The interior minister also accused the United States and Britain of
involvement in the recent wave of unrest in the southwestern province
of Khuzistan, which borders Iraq and is home to a large ethnic Arab
Iranian officials said Friday that Afghan bandits with links to US
and British security services had killed 22 people in Iran, but on
Saturday raisd the death toll to 23.
Among those killed was Hossein Ali Nouri, the governor of Zahedan,
who was first reported critically wounded and later died of his
injuries, Iranian media said.
Police said "a group of armed bandits" crossed the Afghanistan border
and ambushed "innocent people driving in their vehicles" between the
border city of Zabol and Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchistan
According to some Iranian news agencies on Friday, Nouri and his
deputy were shot several times in the chest and abdomen.
The officials were returning to Zahedan after attending a ceremony of
war commanders in Zabol, the reports added.
Iran's police commander, Brigadier General Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam,
told state television Friday: "We have information that the bandits
in Sistan-Baluchistan area had some meetings with the British and the
American security services.
"These services have dictated plans to the bandits on how to
destabilise the area. They are trying to spread disputes between
Shiites and Sunnis. This is a terrorist action against innocent
civilians," he told reporters upon arriving at Zahedan's airport.
Ahmadi-Moqaddam said the bandits had killed Shiites, who were stopped
at a mock checkpoint.
"There is the possibility that the bandits have escaped to
Afghanistan since the area is close to the border," he added.
Sistan-Baluchistan, a mostly Sunni Muslim province in predominantly
Shiite Iran, is notoriously lawless and is a key transit route for
opium and other drugs from Afghanistan and Pakistan headed for Europe
and the Gulf.
Three month ago, a group of Iranian soldiers was kidnapped near the
border with Pakistan by a hardline Sunni Muslim group operating in
the unruly border area. They were later released.
Iranian officials and media had initially said the kidnappers were
bandits, drug traffickers or dissident tribesmen.
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