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Ahwaz plane 'bomb': suspicions fall on Bassij

The alleged terrorist attack attempt on the Kish Air flight from Ahwaz to Tehran, Iran, may have been linked to members of the paramilitary Bassij who are loyal to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to the British Ahwazi Friendship Society's sources in Ahwaz.

The plane, with 140 passengers, had been en route to Tehran on Saturday May 30 when the bomb was discovered 15 minutes after takeoff. The bomb was defused and no-one was injured.

The Iranian regime has been quick to blame Arab separatists and the Mujahideen-e Khalq for the alleged attempted bomb attack on the plane. Former president Mohammad Khatami, who had been in Ahwaz to support Mir-Hussein Mousavi, had flown on the same route shortly before the bomb was discovered. Khatami's assistant Mohammad Shariati told Al-Arabiya TV that implied that hardliners, fearing a strong 'reformist' challenge to the incumbent, may have been behind the attacks.

BAFS's sources state that Ahwaz airport is under massive security, particularly during the election. One said: "There are physical checks of every passenger, x-rays of all luggage and check points around the airport. It is impossible to let an insect through the security at Ahwaz airport. The only people who could get around it are in the Revolutionary Guards and many suspect the Bassij. The regime is trying to suggest the country is under threat from separatists in order to get people to vote for the hardliner Ahmadinejad, instead of Mehdi Karrubi who has supported ethnic and religious minority rights."

Ahmadinejad won the previous presidential elections following massive bomb attacks in Ahwaz City, which helped consolidate the vote behind hardliners. At the time, presidential hopeful Mustafa Moin dismissed the claims of separatist involvement and suggested that it was an inside job. The results of the 2005 elections in the Arab-majority Khuzestan province (once known as Arabistan or Al-Ahwaz), held just weeks after an Arab intifada against the regime, gave Mehdi Karrubi a clear lead with nearly 35% of the vote, ahead of Hashemi Rafsanjani on 20%, Ahmadinejad on 14% and Moin on 10%.