Iran's state-run television showed footage of Zahedan residents marching in
the streets with the coffins of the killed Guardsmen. The crowd chanted, "death
to hypocrites," in a reference to the insurgents.
The blasts are a sharp flare-up of violence, but the remote southeast corner
of Iran, near Pakistan and Afghanistan, has long been plagued by lawlessness.
The area is a key crossing point for opium from Afghanistan and often sees
clashes between police and drug gangs.
Jundallah, which is believed by some to have links to al-Qaida, has waged a
low-level insurgency in the area and is led by Abdulmalak Rigi, a member of
Iran's ethnic Baluchi minority, a community that is Sunni Muslim and also can be
found in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Rigi has said his group is fighting for the
rights of impoverished Sunnis under Iran's Shiite government.
Fars said that Rigi appeared on a station run by an opposition group known as
the People's Mujahedeen, which is based in Iraq, minutes before Friday's
explosion. The People's Mujahedeen has long sought to overthrow the Iranian
government by force.
Iranian officials have often raised concerns that Washington could incite
members of Iran's many ethnic and religious minorities against the Shiite-led
government in Tehran.
Iran has faced several ethnic and religious insurgencies that have carried
out occasionally deadly attacks in recent years - though none have amounted
to a serious threat to the government.
In December, Jundallah claimed responsibility for kidnapping seven Iranian
soldiers in the Zahedan region, threatening to kill them unless group members
were freed from Iranian prisons. The seven were released a month later,
apparently after negotiations through tribal mediators.
In March 2006, gunmen dressed as security forces killed 21 people on a
highway outside Zahedan in an attack authorities blamed on "rebels," though
Jundallah was never specifically named.