Domestic flight headed to Tehran with 131 passengers
Iranian security personnel defused a homemade bomb found on an aircraft during a domestic flight late on Saturday, Iranian state media said, two days after a mosque bombing killed 25 people in the country’s southeast and just two weeks before the presidential election.
The device was defused after the Tehran-bound Kish Air aircraft with 131 passengers on board made an emergency landing in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
"Last night, 15 minutes after the plane with 131 passengers took off, flight security guards found a handmade bomb placed in the lavatory," Fars said. "The plane landed immediately in Ahvaz airport and the bomb was defused."
Ahvaz is the capital of Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province, which borders Iraq and the Gulf.
The incident occurred less than two weeks before the Islamic Republic holds a presidential election June 12 in which the conservative incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, faces a challenge from reformers.
On Thursday a suicide bomber killed 25 and wounded 125 worshippers in a Shiite mosque in Zahedan in southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Three men convicted of involvement in the mosque bombing were executed in public on Saturday in Zahedan.
A Sunni opposition group named Jundollah (God’s Soldiers), which Iran says is part of the al-Qaeda network and backed by the United States, said it was behind the bombing, Al Arabiya TV reported.
The attack on the mosque was reminiscent of a similar outbreak of violence just days before Iran’s last presidential election in 2005 which brought Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.
Bombs hit Tehran and Ahvaz, which has a sizable Arab minority, in June 2005, killing at least eight people and wounding scores more.
Some 520 kilometers (320 miles) southeast of Tehran and 50 kilometers from the Iraqi border, Ahvaz was also rocked by ethnic violence in April 2005.