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Iran: Bomb attack in Ahwaz ahead of mass executions

A bomb has exploded in a residential area of Ahwaz ahead of mass executions of Ahwazi Arabs in the restive city.

No-one was hurt in the bomb blast, which occurred at 23:46 local time on Friday night and shattered the windows of nearby buildings. Iran has blamed past bomb attacks on Ahwazi groups it alleges are supported by the British government, although it has failed to provide any evidence to substantiate its claims.

The regime is planning to execute 10 Ahwazi Arabs after their convictions for mohareb (enmity with God) following trials that have been condemned by Iranian and international human rights organisations (click here for further details). The men are expected to appear in televised 'confessions' on Khuzestan TV in the next day or two, as was the case with the public executions of Mehdi Nawaseri and Ali Afrawi in March (click here for further details).

Many Ahwazis suspect that the Directorate General of Special Operations (DGSO) is behind some or all of the bomb attacks in Ahwaz. The DGSO was responsible for an attack on Imam Reza shrine which killed a number of pilgrims in June 1994, during Rafsanjani's administration. At the time, the attack was blamed on opposition groups. Iranian defectors later revealed that the attacks were a stage-managed by the DGSO in an attempt to force foreign governments into halting the activities of exiled opposition groups. The DGSO was reponsible for the murders of Christian priests, which were also initially blamed on foreign opposition groups but later revealed to be masterminded by the group. Yesterday's bomb attack in Ahwaz was probably intended to stir up public sentiment against Ahwazi Arabs ahead of the executions.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "No Ahwazi group would attack residents of an Arab city since this would undermine their attempts to win support from the local population. There are suspicions that these bomb attacks are the work of the government's Bassij militias in an attempt to create the casus belli for violence against Ahwazi Arab rights activists. Last year, the government blamed Ahwazi separatists for simultaneous attacks in Ahwaz and Tehran, caused by powerful plastic explosives. It is impossible for any Ahwazi group to carry out such attacks - they would not have the resources or the organisational capacity.

"We are convinced that all the men facing execution are entirely innocent of the charges against them. Their execution will be a crime against humanity and we will be campaigning for an international arrest warrant for Abbas Jafari, the Director General of Khuzestan's Justice Department who prevented the men from having a fair trial and directed the judges in the revolutionary courts to deliver guilty verdicts."