Iranian guards threaten Pakistan over suicide bombing

IRGC Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari accused Pakistan's security forces of supporting jihadist group Jaish al-Adl.
Saturday 16/02/2019
Iranian mourners surround the coffins of 27 IRGC members, who were killed in a suicide attack, during their funeral in southeastern city of Isfahan on February 16, 2019. (AFP)
Iranian mourners surround the coffins of 27 IRGC members, who were killed in a suicide attack, during their funeral in southeastern city of Isfahan on February 16, 2019. (AFP)

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) accused "Pakistan's security forces" of supporting the suspected perpetrators of a suicide bombing that killed 27 troops on Wednesday, in remarks state TV aired Saturday hours before their funeral was held.

"Pakistan's government, who has housed these anti-revolutionaries and threats to Islam, knows where they are and they are supported by Pakistan's security forces," said IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, referring to jihadist group Jaish al-Adl ("Army of Justice").

"If (the Pakistan government) does not punish them, we will retaliate against this anti-revolutionary force, and whatever Pakistan sees will be the consequence of its support for them," he warned.

His comments came ahead of a planned two-day visit to Pakistan -- due to begin on Sunday -- by Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, the crown prince of Iran's regional arch-rival Saudi Arabia.

The general made the remarks in Isfahan City on Friday evening during a farewell ceremony held for those killed.

Jaish al-Adl was formed in 2012 as a successor to the Sunni extremist group Jundallah (Soldiers of God), which waged a deadly insurgency for a decade before it was severely weakened by the capture and execution of its leader Abdolmalek Rigi by Tehran in 2010.

The Wednesday bombing targeted a busload of Revolutionary Guards in the volatile southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, which straddles the border with Pakistan.

The attack was one of the deadliest on Iranian security forces in recent years and came just days after Iran held more than a week of celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, which overthrew the US-backed shah.

Jafari also blasted "the support that the region's reactionary states" maintain for "conspiracies" that he said were ordered by Israel and America.

"We will certainly follow retaliatory measures," he added, without elaborating.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has linked the perpetrators of the attack to "the spying agencies of some regional and trans-regional countries."

Isfahan's major streets were covered with black flags attached to lamp-posts as the city prepared for the funeral and two days of mourning.

Vans fixed with loudspeakers cruised streets, inviting people to attend the ceremony.

"Honourable people of Isfahan, we invite you to attend the funeral of 27 of your brave sons, the martyrs of the homeland's security," the speakers blared, according to an AFP reporter.

The troops killed in the bombing belonged to the Guards' 14th Imam Hussein Division based in Isfahan province, according to Tasnim news agency.

Aged from 21 to 52, each will be buried in his hometown after the funeral in Isfahan city.

The assault came as the troops were returning from a border patrol mission on a personnel bus near Zahedan.

Of the 13 wounded in the attack two are in the intensive care unit of an Isfahan hospital.

Sistan-Baluchistan has long been a flashpoint, where Pakistan-based Baluchi separatists and jihadists carry out cross-border raids.

A Revolutionary Guard was killed and five wounded in a February 2 attack claimed by Jaish al-Adl on a base of the Basij militia in the town of Nikshahr, some way from the border.

One of the wounded -- Khodarahm Heidari, who was critically wounded in that attack -- passed away on Saturday, semi-official news agency ISNA reported.

On January 29 three members of an Iranian bomb squad sent to the scene of an explosion in the provincial capital Zahedan were wounded when a second device blew up as they were trying to defuse it, police said at the time.

And in early December two people were killed and around 40 others wounded in the port city of Chabahar, also in Sistan-Baluchistan, in an attack which Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed on "foreign-backed terrorists" -- a reference to Sunni Muslim extremists.

In October, Jaish al-Adl claimed responsibility for abducting 12 Iranian security personnel near the border with Pakistan.

(With AFP)