Blast culprits based in Pakistan: Iranian FM

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday blamed a massive suicide attack in Iran on forces wanting to spoil relations between the countries and denied knowing the whereabouts of the alleged mastermind wanted by Tehran.

The comments from Pakistan’s foreign ministry came as Iran stepped up pressure on Islamabad, charging that the group accused of launching Sunday’s attack is based in Pakistan and urging its ally to confront the rebels.

Iran has accused Pakistan, as well as Britain and the United States, of involvement in the bombing which killed more than 40 people and struck at the heart of its security apparatus — the elite Revolutionary Guards.

‘There are forces which are out to spoil our relations with Iran. But our ties are strong enough to counter these machinations,’ Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told AFP.

Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari had called his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and ‘assured him of Pakistan’s full cooperation in the fight against terrorism,’ Basit said.

Iran’s official IRNA news agency said Ahmadinejad had urged Zardari to confront a Sunni rebel group which Tehran says was behind the bombing in Sistan-Balochestan province, a hotbed of Sunni insurgency.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the group responsible is based in Pakistan and that its members regularly infiltrate the border and launch attacks inside Iran, and that Pakistan was obliged to act so as to ensure ‘The hands of those behind the crimes… be cut.’

‘There is no question given the excellent relations between us that Pakistani territory be allowed to be used for terrorist acts against Iran,’ Basit told AFP.

Iranian officials said the attack was claimed by Sunni militant rebel leader Abdolmalek Rigi, whose Jundallah (Soldiers of God) group has for years been waging war against the Shia rule of Iran.

The head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards said Monday that Tehran will demand that Pakistan hand over Rigi.

‘We don’t know the whereabouts of Rigi,’ said the Pakistan spokesman. ‘As Interior Minister Rehman Malik said, Rigi is not in Pakistan,’ he added.

US monitors the SITE Intelligence Group said Jundallah claimed responsibility for the attack to avenge ‘the wounds of the Baloch people, which have been bleeding for years without end.’ Pakistan’s southwestern province Balochistan, which shares a border with Iran and Afghanistan, is rife with Islamist militancy, Sunni-Shia sectarian violence and a regional Baloch insurgency.

Hundreds of people have died since Baloch rebels rose up in 2004, lashing out against the central Pakistani government, demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the region’s wealth of natural resources.— AFP

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