Published October 15, 2005
TEHRAN, Iran – Two bomb blasts Saturday at a shopping center in Ahvaz (search), near Iran's southwestern border with Iraq, killed four people and wounded at least 75 others, state television reported.
The explosions hit a shopping mall in central Ahvaz, the capital of oil-rich Khuzestan province. Shops in Naderi street were damaged in the bombings. Some of the injured were in critical condition, the broadcast said.
Provincial official Gholam Reza Shariati (search) said the bombs had been planted inside two trash bins. He said the high number of injured was the result of the bombs exploding during the evening rush hour as pedestrians were walking home from work.
State television said the bombs went off five minutes apart at the Karoun Mall in Ahvaz, the site of four bombings in June that killed at least eight people.
Iran's security officials blamed those attacks — the deadliest in Iran in more than a decade — on Iranian Arab extremists with ties to foreign governments, including British intelligence.
In recent weeks, Iran has repeatedly accused Britain of provoking unrest in the Khuzestan Province, next to the part of Iraq where 8,500 British soldiers are based as part of the U.S.-led military coalition.
The explosions follow exchange of bitter words between Tehran (search) and London in recent weeks. While Iran has accused Britain of provoking unrest in Khuzestan Province, Britain has accused Iran of giving Iraqi insurgents explosives technology to bomb British soldiers.
Both countries have denied the claims and counterclaims.
A senior British official went further, telling reporters anonymously that there was evidence Iran's Revolutionary Guard had given insurgents the technology used in the attacks, which have killed eight British troops in southern Iraq since May. The soldiers were hit by powerful roadside bombs able to pierce armored vehicles.
Ahvaz was also the site of two days of violent protests in April after reports circulated of an alleged plan to expel Arab residents from the region. A letter, allegedly signed by former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi (search), ordered the relocation of non-Arabs to Ahvaz so they would become the majority population. Abtahi denied writing the letter.