Tehran, Iran, Dec. 17 – One of the bodyguards of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was killed and another wounded when an attempt to ambush the presidential motorcade was thwarted in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan, according to a semi-official newspaper and local residents.
“At 6:50 pm on Thursday, the lead car in the presidential motorcade confronted armed bandits and trouble-makers on the Zabol-Saravan highway”, the semi-official Jomhouri Islami reported on Saturday.
“In the ensuing armed clash, the driver of the vehicle, who was an indigenous member of the security services, and one of the president’s bodyguards died, while another bodyguard was wounded”, the newspaper, which was founded by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wrote.
Ahmadinejad traveled to the restive province, where ethnic Baluchis have been fighting for years for autonomy, on Wednesday and returned to Tehran on Friday afternoon. Tehran often refers to anti-government activists and political opponents of the Islamist regime as “bandits” and “trouble-makers”.
The newspaper report made no mention of Ahmadinejad’s whereabouts during the attack on his bodyguards’ vehicle, but Zabol residents reached by telephone said there were rumors in the town that the hard-line president himself was the target of the attack, which took place near Zabol.
“Many people have been rounded up for questioning after the attack and the authorities here were clearly shaken by the incident”, a Zabol resident told Iran Focus.
The Sunni Baluchis have faced years of religious and racial discrimination under Iran’s Shiite clergy-dominated government.
Ahmadinejad called the Holocaust a “myth” on Wednesday, on the first day of his trip to the province.
“They have fabricated a legend under the name 'Massacre of the Jews', and they hold it higher than God himself, religion itself and the prophets themselves”, he told a crowd in Zahedan, the provincial capital of Sistan and Baluchestan.
The presidential office and other government officials have refrained from making any comment on the ambush.
Iran’s state-controlled media have given much prominence to Ahmadinejad’s visit to the impoverished province.