Bombs at Iranian shopping center kill four, wound at least 102
TEHRAN, Iran – Two bombs planted inside trash bins exploded Saturday at a shopping mall near the Iraqi border that was previously targeted by extremists, killing four people and wounding at least 102, Iranian state television reported.The explosions struck a shopping center in central Ahvaz, the capital of oil-rich Khuzestan province. Shops in Naderi street and cars outside were damaged. Some of the injured were in critical condition, the broadcast said, showing pools of blood on the pavement.Provincial official Gholam Reza Shariati said the bombs were planted inside two trash bins. He said the number of injured was high because the attacks occurred during the evening rush hour as pedestrians returned home from work.State television said the bombs went off five minutes apart at the Karoun Mall, the site of four bombings in June that killed at least eight people.Iranian security officials blamed those attacks – the deadliest in the nation in more than a decade – on Iranian Arab extremists with ties to foreign governments, including British intelligence.In recent weeks, Iran repeatedly has accused Britain of provoking unrest in the Khuzestan province, next to the region in Iraq where 8,500 British soldiers are based as part of the U.S.-led military coalition.The explosions follow exchange of bitter words between Tehran and London in recent weeks. While Iran has accused Britain of provoking unrest in the province, Britain has accused Iran of giving Iraqi insurgents explosives technology to bomb British soldiers.Both countries deny the other’s claims.British Prime Minister Tony Blair said recently that explosive devices that have killed British troops in Iraq were similar to those used by the Iranian-linked militant group Hezbollah.A senior British official went further, telling reporters on condition of anonymity there was evidence Iran’s Revolutionary Guard had given insurgents the technology used in the attacks, which have killed eight British troops in southern Iraq since May.The soldiers were hit by powerful roadside bombs able to pierce armored vehicles.Ahvaz also was the site of two days of violent protests in April after reports circulated of an alleged plan to expel Arab residents from the region. A letter, allegedly signed by former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, ordered the relocation of non-Arabs to Ahvaz so they would become the majority population.Abtahi denied writing the letter.