ANKARA, Turkey -- A bomb blast killed one of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's key aides and 11 other clerics Friday in a signal that the Iranian opposition was still alive despite thousands of arrests and executions.
Khomeini immediately accused the United States and Iraq of masterminding the assassination of Ayatollah Sayed Abdol Hossein Dastgheib and the 11 other mullahs as they drove by car to weekly prayers in the central Iranian city of Shiraz.
Tehran Radio, monitored in Ankara, gave few details of the blast, saying only that Dastgheib and his aides were killed when their car exploded. It did not say if any people were wounded by the blast and survived.
Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi declared a day of mourning Saturday and scheduled special services Sunday to honor the slain clergymen.
Khomeini, in a message broadcast by the radio, asked, 'Is this an accident or has it been planned?
'Are these killings ... to compensate for the defeat of the United States in the region and of the American Saddam (Iraqi President Saddam Hussein) on the war fronts?.
'Shame and hatred for USA and its lackeys and supporters,' Khomeini declared.
Dastgheib was considered the most powerful clergy leader in the Shiraz area. Before the Islamic takeover in 1979, he led pro-Khomeini demonstrations against the shah's troops.
After the revolution, Khomeini gave Dastgheib effective leadership over the armed militias that emerged as the law enforcement groups in the area.
Later, the paramilitary role was transferred to the revolutionary guards corps, but Dastgheib remained Khomeini's official representative and a powerful figure.
Quoting local officials, the radio said the ayatollah's car was booby-trapped by 'American hypocrites' -- a term used by the Islamic regime to identify the Mojahideen Khalq guerrillas.
The Mojahideen have been blamed for more than 1,000 assassinations since the ouster of moderate president Abolhassan Bani-Sadr in June.
The group, led by its Paris-based chief Massoud Rajavi, has been held responsible for the killings despite official claims that it no longer can function effectively due to large-scale executions -- over 1,800 since June -- and extensive arrests.