TEHRAN, Iran - Gunmen wounded three people at one of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's campaign offices in southeast Iran yesterday, a day after a bombing in a Shiite mosque in the same city killed 25 people, Iran's official news agency said.
The attacks took place in Zahedan, the capital of a lawless province near Pakistan and Afghanistan that has witnessed attacks by Jundallah, an extremist group that claims to be fighting for the rights of minority Sunnis and is believed to have al-Qaeda links.
Abdel Raouf Rigi, a Jundallah spokesman, told Al-Arabiya television that his group was responsible for Thursday's attack and said it was carried out by a suicide bomber targeting a secret meeting of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards that was taking place inside the mosque.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, accused "interventionist powers" of trying to incite sectarian conflict with the mosque bombing, and the country's interior minister specifically blamed the United States and Israel.
Iran often blames Western powers for violence inside the country - accusations they routinely deny, as the United States did yesterday.
"We condemn this terrorist attack in the strongest possible terms and extend our sympathy to the families of those injured and killed," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters in Washington. "We do not sponsor any form of terrorism in Iran."
It was unclear if there was a connection between the two attacks in Zahedan, 1,000 miles southeast of Tehran.
The three gunmen who attacked the campaign office insulted and threatened people before opening fire and injuring two office workers and an infant, the Islamic Republic News Agency quoted the office chief, Mohammad Zahed Sheikhi, as saying. The men were captured after a short chase, he said without providing further detail.
The attack comes two weeks before Ahmadinejad faces a tough election against three other candidates, two of whom are reformists who have criticized the president's performance and hope to improve relations with the West.
Ahmadinejad and other hard-liners in the government have often had a hostile relationship with the United States and its allies, reflected in the frequent accusations that the countries are fomenting unrest in Iran.
"I announce that . . . those who committed the bombing are neither Shiite nor Sunni," Iranian Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli said on the ministry's Web site. "They are Americans and Israelis" who want to stoke sectarian conflict in the country.