(AFP) – Apr 14, 2008
TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran was on Monday investigating an explosion in a mosque in the southern city of Shiraz that killed 12 people and wounded more than 200, amid continued questions about what caused the blast.
Several Iranian officials have insisted the blast late on Saturday was the result of an accident, and not a bomb, but other sources raised the possibility the explosion was an attack by unidentified militants.
"We do not want the results of the investigation to be announced in a hurry and without the necessary precision," the state broadcaster's website quoted the governor of Shiraz, Ebrahim Azizi, as saying.
"We want the work of the experts to be based on facts and realities," he added.
Iran's judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi has appointed the state inspection organisation and the justice ministry to head the investigation, state broadcasting said.
A deadly militant strike of this magnitude would be unprecedented in recent years in a stable city like Shiraz, a tourist magnet which does not lie near border zones or have significant ethnic minority populations.
One of Iran's most famous cities, Shiraz is popular with foreign tourists because of its proximity to important ancient sites from the Achaemenid Empire that ruled much of Asia from 550-331 BC.
But local security officials have insisted that the explosion was the result of negligence, mooting the possibility that ordnance inside the mosque used for an exhibition about the 1980-1988 war with Iraq could have blown up.
"Speculation about the cause of the incident in Shiraz -- A terrorist strike or negligence?" asked the daily Tehran Emrouz on its front page.
The reformist Etemad newspaper was even more doubtful about the official version of events.
"Giving reasons such as the explosion of a gas capsule or ammunition from an exhibition -- when such munitions are neutralised and sealed -- show that those who voice these things ignore people's intelligence," it wrote in an editorial.
"Asking who is behind this incident -- if we are not to officially call it an accident -- should be a priority and a major concern for everyone," it added.
The first reports of the blast late on Saturday described it as a bomb attack but local officials then said on Sunday that the blast was an accident and not the result of sabotage.
The blast went off just after a prayer sermon by prominent local cleric Mohammad Anjavinejad, who is known as a vehement critic of Wahhabism -- the ultra-conservative form of Sunni Islam practised in Saudi Arabia.
The last major militant attack in Iran was a February 2007 strike by suspected Sunni rebels in the city of Zahedan in the southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan border province that killed 13 elite Revolutionary Guards.
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