The suicide bomber who killed 27 members of Iran‘s elite Revolutionary Guard last week was a Pakistani, a senior commander for the force alleged.
Two other members of the cell behind the attack in the country’s southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province, which borders Pakistan, were also Pakistani nationals, local media reported Brigadier-General Mohammad Pakpour as saying on Tuesday.
Pakpour identified the attacker as Hafiz Mohammad Ali, who Iranian officials said also wounded 13 other members of the Revolutionary Guard in the suicide car bomb attack on February 13.
The general said an ongoing probe had made headway after the model of the explosives-packed car that detonated next to a bus carrying the soldiers was identified.
“Two days ago, the first clue, a woman, was identified and arrested, and through this woman, we reached others,” Pakpour told reporters at a ceremony to commemorate the victims.
Three Iranians from the Sistan-Baluchestan province were also part of the cell and two of them have been arrested, according to Pakpour.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Tuesday his country was cooperating with Iran’s investigation into the attack and had handed over Iranian suspects.
“We will cooperate fully with Iran, we have operational contact with Iran,” Qureshi told Pakistan’s state-run television.
‘Heart of evil’
The Sunni group Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice), which says it seeks greater rights and better living conditions for ethnic minority Baluchis in eastern Iran, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Tehran says the group operates mostly out of bases in Pakistan, and has repeatedly blamed its neighbour for sheltering individuals connected with attacks in the countries border areas.
Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi told Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency on Tuesday the Islamic Republic faced threats from “a number of hostile intelligence services”.
“[They] have worked together to challenge the security of the Islamic Republic,” Alavi said.
Alavi’s comments followed a suggestion by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, last week that “obvious” links existed between the perpetrators of the attack “and the spy agencies of certain regional and extra-regional countries”.
Tehran also accuses regional rival Saudi Arabia of promoting violence among its minority Sunni Muslim population.
“Today, Saudi Arabia is the heart of evil in the region and the world,” Brigadier-General Hossein Salami said on Tuesday, Iran’s Fars news agency reported.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia deny any role in attacks in Iran.