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Iran dismisses sabotage in deadly blast at mosque; deaths rise to 11
An Iranian police officer and other people look through debris at the scene of a bomb explosion in a mosque on Saturday April 12 2008 , in Shiraz some 700 kms (420 miles) south of Tehran. Iran's official news agency says that police believe an explosion that ripped through a packed mosque in the city of Shiraz was not intentionally set. The casualties in Saturday's blast had risen to 11 people dead and 191 wounded by Sunday. - photo by Associated Press
    TEHRAN, Iran  — Iranian officials on Sunday ruled out an attack as the cause of an explosion that killed 11 people in the southern city of Shiraz, saying it was an accident that was likely caused by leftover ammunition.
    The explosion ripped through a mosque packed with hundreds of worshippers late Saturday as a cleric delivered his weekly speech against extremist Wahabi beliefs and the outlawed Baha’i faith, the semiofficial Fars news agency said.
    Authorities said besides the 11 killed, 191 people were wounded, some of them critically, the state IRNA news agency reported.
    On Sunday, the deputy interior minister in charge of security, Abbas Mohtaj, said the ‘‘explosion was due to an accident which is under investigation.’’
    ‘‘It was not because of bombing,’’ Mohtaj said, but did not elaborate.
    The police chief of the southern Fars Province, Gen. Ali Moayyedi, said he ‘‘rejects’’ the possibility of an intentional bombing and ‘‘any sort of insurgency’’ in the blast.
    Moayyedi, in comments carried by state IRNA news agency, said the initial investigation found remnants of ammunition from a military exhibition that was held recently at the mosque.
    Earlier, the Fars agency quoted a local police official as saying a homemade bomb had caused the explosion and indicated the attack could been religiously motivated. But the agency backed off those speculations on Sunday.
    A witness to the blast, Mostafa Nazari, told The Associated Press that some 1,000 worshippers had gathered at the mosque grounds to hear a cleric speak. He said it was fortunate the blast happened at a part of the building far from the podium, around which most of the audience had crowded.
    Shiraz, some 440 miles south of Tehran and the capital of Fars province, is a major draw for foreign tourists who come to see the ruins of nearby Persepolis, the capital of ancient Persia.

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