Iran reports suicide bombing at Tehran prayer session

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- A bomb strapped around a man's waist exploded at a packed prayer session attended by President Ali Khamenei in Tehran today, the official Islamic Republic News Agency said.

The agency said Khamenei was not hurt, but reported several casualties among the worshippers attending the weekly Friday prayer services at Tehran University. It said the bomber died in the blast.


'A terrorist was killed when his hand-made bomb wrapped around his waist exploded among the crowd of worshippers. There were a number of casualties among the worshippers,' the agency said.

The bomb went off during a sermon by Khamenei, who was not hurt and resumed his speech after only a brief interruption, IRNA said.

'The president's speech was interrupted for three minutes by cries of 'God is great' from the massive crowd of worshippers at the Tehran University and the surrounding areas,' the agency said.

A few minutes before the explosion, anti-aircraft fire was heard in many parts of the Iranian capital, IRNA said, without giving any other details.

The bomb attack coincided with stepped-up Iraqi and Iranian ground attacks against cities and an Iranian warning that it would launch a massive offensive against Iraq.


In New York, the 15-nation U.N. Security Council failed late Thursday to agree on the text of an appeal to Iran and Iraq to cool their escalating fighting.

Iran did not say when it would carry out the offensive, but its parliament speaker, Hashemi Rafsanjani, said Thursday 'a much bigger and decisive operation will be launched when certain conditions have been fulfilled.'

Rafsanjani was referring to the current Iranian offensive launched Monday against the Howeiza marshes east of the Tigris River, where fierce fighting raged as Iraqi forces tried to push back the Iranian troops.

Iran said its artillery and warplanes pounded half a dozen Iraqi cities Thursday and Iraq said it retaliated by sending its jets on an air strike against the center of Tehran.

Iraq's official news agency said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein toured the battlefront to give orders to his military commanders and congratulate the troops. Iran also claimed the upper hand.

Iran said the raid on Tehran was in apparent retaliation for Iran firing what it said was a surface-to-surface missile on Baghdad, which destroyed the 13-story Rafidain Bank.

But Baghdad denied the report and said a bomb planted by guerrillas tore through the upper floors of the building. It said there were no casualties.


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