Suicide bomber kills 9 at parade in Iran

By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times

A suicide bombing struck a large crowd at military parade in western Iran on Wednesday, killing at least nine people and injuring 20 during a nationalist holiday meant to underscore Iran’s battle readiness, Iranian media reported.

According to Iran’s Arabic language Al-Alam television channel, the bombing struck a large crowd gathered in the city of Mahabad for annual Sacred Defense Week celebrations marking the 1988 end of the Iran- Iraq war.

Officials described the bombing as a “terrorist attack” that took place about 11 a.m. along a sidewalk.

“Almost all of the martyrs and injured are women and children,” Vahid Jalalzadeh told the official Islamic Republic News Agency. “Anti-revolution elements have always carried out such bestial acts in Mahabad in order to take revenge on the people.”

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mahabad is in Iran’s Kurdish heartland and carries enormous symbolic weight for ethnic Kurds throughout the world. It was the capital of a short-lived Kurdish autonomous republic set up in 1946 and was the birthplace of Massoud Barzani, the de facto leader of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

The Kurdish separatist militant group PEJAK, Party for the Free Life of Kurdistan, operates in the area of Mahabad and has clashed with Iranian troops in recent years. PEJAK is the Iranian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which has been fighting the Turkish government for decades.

Kurds are believed to be the world’s largest ethnic group without a homeland. They have been fighting for autonomy and cultural rights against governments of Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria for decades.

A nearby mountainous stretch along the Iran-Iraq border has also sheltered Al Qaeda-linked extremist groups, such as Ansar al-Islam.

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