TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - An Iranian vice
president blamed Al Qaeda for today's attacks on Shiite
Muslims in Iraq and Pakistan, condemning the terrorist group's
rigid thinking for the bombings and shootings that killed more
than 20 Iranian worshippers and wounded 69.
Mohammad Ali Abtahi, Iran's vice president for legal and
parliamentary affairs, wrote in a message posted on his
personal Web site that Al Qaeda considers Shiites more
dangerous than their political enemy - the United States.
"The reactionary Al Qaeda terror group reached a conclusion
... that they have two enemies: the United States as the
political enemy and Shiites as the ideological enemy," Abtahi
Al Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, is a predominantly Sunni
militant group, and draws its members from some of the most
conservative streams of Sunni thought - segments of Muslim
society that consider Shiites heretics.
"Blasts in Karbala and Kazimiya (shrine in Baghdad) today
... are the direct result of this reactionary religious
thinking,'' Abtahi wrote.
A total of 185 people were killed in today's bombings in
Baghdad and Karbala, Iraq; and Quetta, Pakistan.
Abtahi's comments about Al Qaeda are noteworthy because the
United States has accused Iran of harboring Al Qaeda
fugitives, many of whom are believed to have fled there from
neighboring Afghanistan in late 2001 or early 2002 during the
The United States believes those fugitives include bin
Laden's eldest son, Saad; Abu Mohammed al-Masri, wanted in
connection with the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East
Africa in 1998; and Abu Musab Zarqawi, whom some U.S.
officials describe as the key link between Al Qaeda and
toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
President Bush also included Iran in his "axis of evil"
with North Korea and prewar Iraq.
Iran still wields tremendous influence in the region and
many Gulf countries, primarily Saudi Arabia, worry that the
now-emboldened Iraqi Shiites - a long-repressed majority in
Iraq - will strike up close ties with Iran and become more
In Iraq, at least 143 people were killed and hundreds more
were wounded in today's nearly simultaneous bombings in
Baghdad and Karbala, which came during the Shiite festival of
Ashoura. They coincided with a shooting attack on Shiite
worshippers in Quetta, Pakistan, that killed at least 42
people and wounded more than 150.
At least 22 Iranian pilgrims were killed and 69 others
injured in the Karbala explosions, Iranian Interior Ministry
spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani said.
Khanjani said some victims in the Kazimiya explosions in
Baghdad were Iranian but had no figures.
Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani estimated
that as many as 50 Iranians - or almost a third of the 143
people killed in today's attacks in Iraq - were believed to be
Iranians. He said information was incomplete and no official
figures on confirmed Iranian deaths was available.
Iran's state media have reported that more than 100,000
Iranian pilgrims went to Iraq to mark the feast.
The death of Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, and
his 72 companions in 680 on the plains of Karbala is marked
every year with mourning ceremonies in Iran and Shiite
communities across the world.
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