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Middle East

12 killed as bomb explodes at Iranian military parade

Twelve people were killed and dozens injured yesterday when a bomb exploded among a crowd watching a military parade in north-western Iran. One local official blamed the attack on "anti-revolutionary" militants.

Thirty-five people were wounded – 15 of them critically – by the blast in Mahabad, a town of about 135,000 people in a predominantly Kurdish area near the borders of Iraq and Turkey.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but local officials blamed militants, possibly helped by foreign countries wishing to harm the Islamic Republic during its "Sacred Defence" celebrations – an annual ceremony for the Iranian military.

"This bomb was a time-bomb planted on a tree among the people and it went off at 10.20am," said a military official quoted by the website of the state-run television network IRIB.

"Counter-revolutionary groups, by inserting themselves among the people attending the armed forces parade, showed their heinous face," added Vahid Jalalzadeh, the provincial governor of Iran's West Azerbaijan province.

Television footage showed troops marching past a ceremonial podium when a blast happened. Pictures of the aftermath showed blood on the ground, shoes and an abandoned pram.

The attack occurred as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was at the UN General Assembly in New York. On 4 August, a homemade explosive went off near Mr Ahmadinejad's motorcade as he was travelling to the western city of Hamadan. He was unharmed. Several armed groups hostile to the government are active in Iran, including Kurdish separatists in the north-west, Baluch militants in the south-east and some Arabs in the south-west. The Sunni Muslim group, Jundollah Baluch, which Iran says has links to al-Qa'ida, is the most active. It claimed a suicide attack that killed 28 people in July after its leader was executed.