Tehran, Sep 23 (DPA) A bomb exploded Wednesday during a military parade in northwestern Iran, killing at least 10 people and injuring 35, state media reported.
The governor of Azerbaijan province told Mehr news agency that the death toll could rise because at least four more people sustained life-threatening injuries in the bombing in Mahabad.
Soldiers at the parade were not injured, said Governor Vahid Jalalzadeh, who blamed ‘counter-revolutionaries’ for the explosion.
The wives of two high-ranking military officials were among those killed by the bomb, which was reportedly planted inside a bag 50 metres from the parade venue.
Military parades were held throughout the country Wednesday to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the start of the 1980-88 war with Iraq, which Iran calls the ‘sacred defence’.
Mahabad has a population of almost 200,000 people, most of whom are members of the Kurdish minority.
Kurds are Sunni Muslims while the majority of Iranians are Shiites. Sunnis make up about 10 per cent of Iran’s population.
Kurdish rebel groups in Iran have been at odds with the government in Tehran for decades, seeking autonomy in Kurdish-populated provinces and an alliance with Kurds in Turkey, Iraq and Syria.
Jalalzadeh said most of the victims were women and children who were following the parade from the VIP box.
The governor told the news network Khabar that ‘foreign elements’ such as the US and it allies might have been behind the incident.
Iran has several times accused the US of being behind bombings in the country, but so far had not presented any evidence.
One of the groups suspected of the bombing in Mahabad is a wing of the outlawed Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK).
PJAK is a Kurdish nationalist group affiliated with Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party, with which Iranian forces have had several violent clashes.
Five Kurdish rebels believed to be members of PJAK were hanged in May in Tehran for a series of bomb attacks in Iranian cities.
Also in May, five PJAK rebels were killed in Kermanshah, another Kurdish province in north-western Iran.
The majority of Kurds in the country are integrated into Iranian society. They have some cultural autonomy, but are obliged to learn Persian rather than Kurdish in schools.