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Suicide bombers kill at least 39 in Iran

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TEHRAN (AP) — Two suicide bombers blew themselves up near a mosque in southeastern Iran on Wednesday, killing at least 39 people, including a newborn baby, at a Shi'ite mourning ceremony, state media reported.

The attack, which also injured 90 people, took place outside the Imam Hussein Mosque in the port city of Chahbahar, near the border with Pakistan, the official IRNA news agency said.

The bombers targeted a group of worshippers at a mourning ceremony a day before Ashoura, which commemorates the seventh-century death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussein, one of Shi'ite Islam's most beloved saints.

An armed Sunni militant group called Jundallah, or Soldiers of God, claimed responsibility in a statement posted on its website. The group has carried out sporadic attacks in Iran's southeast to fight alleged discrimination against the area's Sunni minority in overwhelmingly Shi'ite Iran.

The group said Wednesday's attack was a second act of revenge for the execution of its leader, Abdulmalik Rigi, in June.

"This operation is a warning to the Iranian regime that it must end its interference in the religious affairs of the Sunnis, stop executions and release the prisoners," the Internet statement said. "Otherwise, martyrdom operations will continue with a stronger forcer

One of the attackers detonated a bomb outside the mosque, and the other struck from inside a crowd of worshippers, state TV reported.

Security forces shot one of them, but the bomber was still able to detonate the explosives, the report said, quoting Deputy Interior Minister Ali Abdollahi. A third attacker was arrested, state TV said.

Forensic official Fariborz Ayati said the dead included women and children, IRNA reported.

Mahmoud Mozaffar, a senior Iranian Red Crescent Society official, said emergency services had been put on alert over the past few days because of anonymous threats, according to another news agency, ISNA.

The deputy interior minister blamed Sunni militants, an apparent reference to Jundallah.

"Evidence and the kind of equipment used suggest that the terrorists were affiliated with extremist ... groups backed by the U.S. and intelligence services of some regional states," Mr. Abdollahi was quoted as saying by state TV.

Iranian officials claim Jundallah, which has operated from bases in Pakistan, receives support from Western powers, including the United States. Washington denies any links to the group, and in November the State Department added Jundallah to a U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations.

In July, two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a mosque in the same province, Sistan-Baluchestan, killing at least 28 people. Jundallah said that attack was revenge for the execution of its leader, Abdulmalik Rigi, in June.

That strike in the provincial capital, Zahedan, also targeted Shi'ite worshippers during a holiday, the birthday of Hussein, the Prophet's grandson.

The group also has targeted members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, the country's most powerful military force.

In its deadliest attack, a suicide bomber hit a meeting between Guard commanders and Shi'ite and Sunni tribal leaders in the border town of Pishin in October 2009, killing 42 people, including 15 Guard members.

Drug traffickers and smugglers also are active along the barren frontier area of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan and have launched attacks on security forces.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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