Ahmadinejad Convoy Attacked in Suspected Assassination Attempt

Conservative Iranian website says handmade grenade explodes near Iranian president's convoy; official news agency says 'just a firecracker'

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was unharmed by an attack with a homemade explosive device on his motorcade during a visit to the western city of
Hamadan on Wednesday, a source in his office said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waving to the media in Tehran

The source said Ahmadinejad's convoy was targeted as he was travelling from Hamadan's airport to give a speech in a local sports arena. The president was unhurt but others were injured in the blast. One person was arrested.

"There was an attack this morning. Nothing happened to the president's car," the source told Reuters. "Investigations continue ... to find out who was behind it."

Iran's official news agency however said Wednesday that the explosion was caused by an excited fan setting off fireworks, denying the reports of an assassination attempt.

"A fan set off a firecracker similar to those used during sports matches to express his excitement at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to the western Iranian town of Hamedan," reported IRNA news agency.

Ahmadinejad, who has cracked down on opposition since a disputed June 2009 presidential election, appeared on live Iranian television at the sports stadium in Hamadan. He was apparently well and made no mention of any assault.

The populist, hardline Ahmadinejad has accumulated enemies in conservative and reformist circles in the Islamic Republic as well as abroad.

Al Arabiya television said an attacker had thrown a bomb at Ahmadinejad's convoy before being detained. Dubai-based Al Arabiya cited its own sources as saying the bomb had hit a car carrying journalists and presidential staff.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

On Monday, during a speech to a conference of expatriate Iranians in Tehran, Ahmadinejad said he believed he was the target of an assassination plot by Israel. "The stupid Zionists have hired mercenaries to assassinate me," he said.

Ahmadinejad's government is facing economic pain as new foreign sanctions imposed over Iran's disputed nuclear energy program bite on the world's fifth biggest oil exporter.

The reported attack comes after last month when at least 21 people, including members of the elite Revolutionary Guards, were killed and 100 wounded in two suicide attacks at a prominent Shi'ite Muslim mosque in the southeast Iranian city of Zahedan.

The Sunni Muslim rebel group Jundollah said it was behind the attacks, telling Al Arabiyeh television in an email that it had carried out the two bombings in retaliation for Iran's execution of the group's leader, Abdolmalek Rigi, in June.

Last year, Iran's intelligence minister accused Israel of conspiring to assassinate Ahmadinejad during last year's tumultuous election campaign,

According to AFP, Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie told state media in Iran that Israeli officials had met members of the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, an exiled opposition group, twice to plan Ahmadinejad's assassination.

"The Zionist regime had met with the [PMOI] on the sidelines of [a meeting in[ Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt and in Paris to assassinate Mr. Ahmadinejad," Ejeie said.

The intelligence minister said the group agreed to cooperate on condition that it be removed from a U.S. "terror black list," according to AFP.

"The enemies even approached the rebels in east of the country to achieve this aim," said Ejeie, who was referring to armed Sunni dissidents.

Last year, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff and current minister for strategic affairs, Moshe "Bogie" Ya'alon, was quoted as saying by an Australian newspaper that the West must consider all options necessary to stop Tehran's nuclear program, including assassinating Ahmadinejad.

An associate of Ya'alon said, however, that the former IDF chief's comments on the necessity of considering assassination were taken out of context.