Nine killed and 105 injured as bomb explodes at mosque in Iranian city

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The Independent Online

A bomb in a mosque in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz has killed at least nine people, amid fears the death toll will continue to rise. At least 105 were injured by the explosion and many are in a critical condition, the Iranian Fars news agency reported.

The force of the blast shook houses and shattered windows half a mile away. By last night, no one had claimed responsibility for the attack, which happened in the city's Shohada mosque at 9pm local time.

Saeedeh Ghorbani, 20, who was wounded in the blast, said around 800 people were in the mosque when the bomb, believed to have been a homemade device, went off. "After we heard an explosion, there was smoke everywhere," she said.

The blast happened as a cleric was giving an address to children affiliated with the Rahpoyan-e Vesal Association, which "holds meetings every Saturday regarding misguided groups, including Wahabis and Bahais", Fars reported.

Wahabi is a fundamentalist strain of Sunni Islam, practiced mainly in Saudi Arabia, notably by the ruling Saudi royal family. It considers Shias – who dominate Iran – to be heretics. The Bahai faith, viewed as heretical by the Iranian religious authorities, has been banned since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Bombings have been rare in Iran in recent years, although a number of people have been killed in ethnic and religious insurgencies.

Sunni militants claimed responsibility in February last year for a car bomb that exploded beside a bus carrying members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard, killing 11 and wounding more than 30. Ethnic Arab Sunni militants were also blamed for a series of bombings in the south-western oil city of Ahvaz, near the border with Iraq, in 2005 and 2006. Nine people died in the 2006 attacks.

However, Washington has long accused Iran of trying to destabilise Iraq by supporting its Shia militants, and yesterday's bombing happened as American and Iraqi troops continued their attempt to seal off the Sadr City district of Baghdad.

At least 13 Shia militants belonging to the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army have been killed in the operation, along with seven civilians and a US soldier, who was blown up by a roadside bomb.

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