Gunmen disguised as troopers attacked an annual Iranian navy parade Saturday within the nation’s oil-rich southwest, killing at the very least 24 individuals and wounding 53 within the bloodiest assault to strike the nation lately.
The assault in Ahvaz noticed gunfire sprayed right into a crowd of marching Revolutionary Guardsmen, bystanders and authorities officers watching from a close-by riser. Suspicion instantly fell on the area’s Arab separatists, who beforehand solely attacked unguarded oil pipelines beneath the duvet of darkness.
Iran’s Overseas Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif instantly blamed the assault on regional international locations and their “U.S. masters,” calling the gunmen “terrorists recruited, educated armed and paid” by international powers. That additional raises tensions within the Mideast as Tehran’s nuclear cope with world powers is in jeopardy after President Donald Trump withdrew America from the accord.
“Iran will reply swiftly and decisively in protection of Iranian lives,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.
The assault got here as rows of Revolutionary Guardsmen marched down Ahvaz’s Quds, or Jerusalem, Boulevard, which like many different locations across the nation noticed an annual parade marking the beginning of Iran’s lengthy 1980s conflict with Iraq. Photos captured by state tv confirmed journalists and onlookers flip to look towards the primary pictures, then the rows of marchers broke as troopers and civilians sought cowl beneath sustained gunfire.
“Oh God! Go go go! Lie down! Lie down!” one man screamed as a girl fled along with her child.
Within the aftermath, paramedics tended to the wounded as troopers, some bloodied of their costume uniforms, helped their comrades to ambulances.
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The state-run IRNA information company mentioned the assault killed 24 individuals and wounded 53, citing “educated sources” with out elaborating. It mentioned gunmen wore Guard uniforms and focused a riser the place navy and police commanders had been sitting.
“We all of the sudden realized that some armed individuals carrying faux navy outfits began attacking the comrades from behind (the stage) after which opened hearth on ladies and kids,” an unnamed wounded soldier instructed state TV. “They had been simply aimlessly taking pictures round and didn’t have a selected goal.”
Particulars concerning the assault remained unclear instantly afterward. The semi-official Fars information company, which is near the Guard, in the meantime mentioned two gunmen on a motorbike carrying khaki uniforms carried out the assault.
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Khuzestan Gov. Gholamreza Shariati instructed IRNA that two gunmen had been killed and two others had been arrested.
State TV hours later reported that each one 4 gunmen had been killed, with three dying through the assault and one later succumbing to his wounds at a hospital.
Who carried out the assault additionally remained in query. State tv instantly described the assailants as “takfiri gunmen,” a time period beforehand used to explain the Islamic State group. Iran has been deeply concerned within the combat in opposition to IS in Iraq and has aided embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad in his nation’s lengthy conflict.
However within the hours following the assault, state media and authorities officers appeared to return to the consensus that Arab separatists within the area had been accountable. The separatists, nevertheless, beforehand solely carried out pipeline bombings at evening or hit-and-run assaults.
The separatists accuse Iran’s Shiite theocracy of discriminating in opposition to its Sunni Arab residents. Iran has blamed its Mideast archrival, the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for funding their exercise. State media in Saudi Arabia didn’t instantly acknowledge the assault.
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The Islamic State group later claimed duty in a message on its Amaaq information company, however offered no proof it carried out the assault. The militants have made a string of false claims within the wake of main defeats in Iraq and Syria.
In Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani watched a navy parade that included ballistic missiles able to reaching Israel and U.S. navy bases within the Mideast. Rouhani mentioned the U.S. withdraw from the nuclear deal was an try to get Iran to surrender its navy arsenal.
“Iran neither put its defensive arms apart nor lessens its defensive capabilities,” Rouhani mentioned. “Iran will add to its defensive energy day-to-day.”
Saturday’s assault comes after a coordinated June 7, 2017 Islamic State group assault on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran. At the very least 18 individuals had been killed and greater than 50 wounded.
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Khomeini led the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah to change into Iran’s first supreme chief till his dying in 1989. The assault shocked Tehran, which largely has averted militant assaults within the many years after the tumult surrounding the Islamic Revolution.
Within the final decade, such assaults have been extremely uncommon. In 2009 greater than 40 individuals, together with six Guard commanders, had been killed in a suicide assault by Sunni extremists in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan province.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is a paramilitary power answerable solely to Supreme Chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Guard additionally has huge holdings in Iran’s economic system.