Iran Defuses Homemade Bomb On Plane - Report

Security personnel defused a homemade bomb found on an aircraft during a domestic flight in Iran late Saturday, Iranian media said, two days after a mosque bombing killed 25 people in the country's southeast.

The incident occurred less than two weeks before the Islamic Republic holds a presidential election in which the conservative incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, faces a challenge from reformers.

"The enemies want to create a security-threat environment before the country's presidential election and to create hopelessness among people," the official IRNA news agency quoted Mohammad Hassan Kazemi, a commander in the elite Revolutionary Guard in charge of aviation security, as saying.

The semi-official Fars news agency said 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 plot... was unsuccessful due to the security forces' awareness and those behind it were arrested," IRNA said, without giving further details.

Ahvaz is the capital of Khuzestan province, where many of Iran's oil fields are located. The province borders Iraq and is home to the mainly Shi'ite Muslim country's Arab minority.

A Sunni opposition group named Jundollah (God's Soldiers), which Iran says is part of the Islamist al Qaeda network and backed by the United States, said it was behind the bombing, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said.

Iran has previously accused the United States of supporting Sunni rebels operating on its border with Pakistan. Jundollah says it fights for the rights of Iran's minority Sunni population.

Kazemi said he could not confirm whether there was a connection between the plane incident and the mosque bombing.

Thursday's bombing was the deadliest such incident in Iran since its 1980-88 war with Iraq. A blast in a mosque in the southern city of Shiraz killed 14 people in April last year but the country has otherwise been relatively peaceful.

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