Bandits execute 12 by southern Iranian road
Tehran, May 14: Bandits disguised as policemen executed 12 bound men by a southern Iranian roadside and strung a wounded 12-year-old boy from an electricity pylon, state media reported today.
The killings happened on the desert road between the southern cities of Kerman and Bam. Brutal bandit attacks are rare so far from Iran's lawless borders, but common along the Afghan and Pakistani frontier.
The motive for the killings was unclear but the murders raised concerns about the safety of a road often used by tourists visiting historical sites in Kerman province.
Kerman's provincial Governor Abdolmohammad Raoufinejad was quoted by state television saying four cars, later found burned out, had been held up at gunpoint at 9 pm yesterday night, 35 km west of Bam.
Eight attackers bound and blindfolded their victims before shooting them in the head, television reported. Eleven of the corpses were flung into a ditch. One man later died of his injuries in hospital.
Two people escaped with injuries, television reported. It was not immediately clear if the boy strung to the pylon survived.
Raoufinejad said the gunmen were wearing police uniforms.
Provincial officials in Kerman were not immediately available to comment about a motive for the attack. Regional police were also unavailable for comment.
Most banditry in Iran is associated with heavily armed drug traffickers. The main thoroughfare for transporting Afghan opium to Europe passes through Bam.
However, most drug-running violence happens in the southeastern border province of Sistan-Baluchistan, which neighbours Kerman province.
The province resembles a war-zone, dotted with forts, trenches and machine-gun posts. More than 3,300 Iranian security personnel have died fighting traffickers since the 1979 revolution.
In the chaos surrounding a 2003 earthquake in Bam, authorities said bandits from Sistan-Baluchistan were heading up into Bam to loot shattered buildings and pick up drugs hidden in razed safe houses.
Drug traffickers from Sistan-Baluchistan made some bold snatches of Spanish and Italian tourists in 1999, kidnapping some from their hotels. However, the area has been regarded as safe from such attacks in recent years.