Tehran: Two suicide bombers blew themselves up near a mosque in southeastern Iran on Wednesday, killing at least 39 people, including a newborn baby, at a Shiite mourning ceremony, state media reported.
The attack took place outside the Imam Hussein Mosque in the port city of Chahbahar, near the border with Pakistan, the official IRNA news agency said.
The bombers targeted a group of worshippers at a mourning ceremony a day before Ashoura, which commemorates the seventh century death of the Prophet Muhammad`s grandson Hussein, one of Shiite Islam`s most beloved saints.
Southeastern Iran is home to an armed Sunni militant group called Jundallah, or Soldiers of God, which has carried out sporadic attacks to fight alleged discrimination against the area`s Sunni minority in overwhelmingly Shiite Iran.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the use of multiple suicide attackers to target Shiite worshippers is a tactic the group has employed in the past.
One of the attackers detonated a bomb outside the mosque and the other struck from inside a crowd of worshippers, state TV reported.
Security forces shot one of them, but the bomber was still able to detonate the explosives, the report said, quoting deputy Interior Minister Ali Abdollahi. A third attacker was arrested, state TV said.
Forensic official Fariborz Ayati put the number of dead at 39 and said they included three women and one newborn baby, IRNA reported.
Mahmoud Mozaffar, a senior Iranian Red Crescent Society official, said emergency services had been put on alert over the past few days because of anonymous threats, according to another news agency, ISNA.
The deputy interior minister blamed Sunni militants, an apparent reference to Jundallah.
"Evidence and the kind of equipment used suggest that the terrorists were affiliated with extremist ... groups backed by the US and intelligence services of some regional states," Abdollahi was quoted as saying by state TV.
Iranian officials claim Jundallah, which has operated from bases in Pakistan, receives support from Western powers, including the United States. Washington denies any links to the group, and in November the State Department added Jundallah to a US list of foreign terrorist organizations.
Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani said the bombing sought to sow discord among Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
"The aim of the terrorists ... is to sow discord among Shiites and Sunnis," he said. "Such actions can be done only by the Zionist regime and the US."
In July, two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a mosque in the same province, Sistan-Baluchestan, killing at least 28 people. Jundallah said that attack was revenge for the execution of its leader, Abdulmalik Rigi, in June.
That strike in the provincial capital, Zahedan, also targeted Shiite worshippers during a holiday, the birthday of Hussein, the prophet`s grandson.
The group has also targeted members of Iran`s Revolutionary Guard, the country`s most powerful military force.
In its deadliest attack, a suicide bomber hit a meeting between Guard commanders and Shiite and Sunni tribal leaders in the border town of Pishin in October 2009, killing 42 people, including 15 Guard members.
Drug traffickers and smugglers also are active along the barren frontier area of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan and have launched attacks on security forces.