TEHRAN: A bomb tore through a military parade in Iran Wednesday killing ten people, two of them were the wives of two Iranian military chiefs, as the country marked the 30th anniversary of the start of the bloody Iran-Iraq war, reports said.
Dozens of people were wounded in the blast, which occurred during an annual military parade in the northwestern Kurdish town of Mahabad, Arabic-language television channel Al-Alam said.
"The explosion happened in the morning as people were watching the military parade and it left nine dead and dozens wounded, mostly women and children. The explosives were in a bag," Al-Alam said.
Provincial governor Vahid Jalalzadeh confirmed the casualties to the official IRNA news agency.
"Counter-revolutionaries committed this savage act with the aim of taking revenge on the people of Mahabad" in West Azarbaijan province, he said.
The attack took place as Iran marked the 30th anniversary of the start of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, during which army parades are traditionally staged across the country.
Western Iran, which has a sizeable Kurdish population, has seen deadly clashes in recent years between the Iranian security forces and Kurdish rebel groups, mainly the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) operating from bases in neighbouring Iraq.
In Tehran earlier in the day, Iran’s top military commander insisted that the Islamic republic’s military power was for defensive purposes only.
"The increased military capability of Iran is only a deterrent against aggressors and for defending our country against enemy threats," chief of staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi said in a speech.
"We can confidently tell people that our military might is superior in the region but our military superiority is not limited to the number of planes and material calculations," he boasted.
Firouzabadi, flanked by Iran’s top military commanders, made the speech at a military parade where Iran’s long-range Sejil, Shahab-3 and Ghadr-1 missiles were also showcased.
With a range of 1,800 to 2,000 kilometers, the missiles are theoretically capable of hitting Iran’s archfoe Israel.
Iraq’s Saddam Hussein attacked Iran on September 22, 1980, shortly after the Islamic revolution, starting an eight-year war during which an estimated one million people were killed on both sides.
During the Tehran parade, Iran also showed off five of its "bomber" drones Karar ("Assailant"), first unveiled in August and said to have a range of 1,000 kilometers. Iran touted the aerial drone as its home-grown capacity to resist attack.
Iran also paraded for the first time Wednesday a "Blue Beret" unit of 180 men as well as several armored personnel-carriers emblazoned with UN insignia.
Iran’s army chief Ataollah Salehi said that Iran "has been ready for several years to provide a group of peacekeeping soldiers to the United Nations."
Iranian peacekeepers have already been "involved in several places such as Somalia and Eritrea," he told reporters, without elaborating.
The United States and Israel accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons and have never ruled out a military strike to thwart its atomic program, which Tehran insists is solely aimed at peaceful purposes.
Iranian officials have vowed a crushing response in the event of an attack, targeting US bases in the region and Israel, and threatening to block the oil passage in the Gulf.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a New York meeting with US media on Tuesday warned that an attack on his country’s nuclear facilities could spark a war with "no limits."
As Iran presses on with its nuclear program and stages regular war games showing off missiles and domestically-developed weaponry, it has also sought to allay concerns of its Arab neighbours across the Gulf that it poses no threat to them.
Saudi Arabia, however, is planning a 60-billion-dollar arms deal of advanced warplanes and helicopters with the United States, according to US defence officials this week.
Analysts say the purchase — which would represent the largest ever US arms deal – is to help counter the perceived threat from Iran.
The United States voiced concern, saying Iran’s arms buildup would backfire as its neighbour’s gang up against it.