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Elite Iranian soldiers killed in attack on military parade Terrorists kill Iranian children and soldiers in military parade attack
(about 2 hours later)
Gunmen have attacked a military parade in the south-west Iranian city of Ahvaz, killing 24 people and wounding 53, state media has said. At least 29 people, including children, have been killed in a terrorist attack on a military parade in south-west Iran, responsibility for which has been claimed by both Islamic State and a separatist group.
The IRNA news agency reported that the wounded included a woman and a child. Four assailants disguised as military personnel opened fire from behind the viewing platform during the parade in Ahvaz to mark the anniversary of the eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, blamed regional countries and their “US masters” for the attack and said Iran would “respond swiftly and decisively in defence of Iranian lives”. He said children and journalists were casualties in the attack. Members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and soldiers from the country’s army as well as civilians, including children, were among the victims, news agencies reported.
Terrorists recruited, trained, armed & paid by a foreign regime have attacked Ahvaz. Children and journos among casualties. Iran holds regional terror sponsors and their US masters accountable for such attacks. Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives. pic.twitter.com/WG1J1wgVD9 The attack took place in the capital of the oil-rich Khuzistan province which is home to the country’s Arab minority. It has been the scene of recurring protests over environmental challenges and economic grievances in recent months.
Zarif did not immediately elaborate after his tweet. However, Arab separatist groups have previously attacked oil pipelines in the region. Iran’s state news agency, Irna, quoted an unnamed “informed source” as saying that at least 24 people had been killed, and another 53 taken to hospital, some in a critical condition. Three of the assailants were killed on the scene while one died after sustaining injuries when he was taken to the hospital, the agencies reported.
Earlier reports on Saturday described the assailants as Takfiri, a term previously used to describe Islamic State. Photographs taken in the aftermath of the attack showed soldiers carrying wounded children away from the scene.
The semi-official Fars news agency, which is close to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, said two gunmen on a motorcycle wearing khaki uniforms carried out the attack. One image taken by the semi-official Isna news agency showed a soldier holding an injured young boy who later died. Irna identified him as Mohammad-Taha Eghdami.
State television showed images of the immediate aftermath, with paramedics seen helping someone in military fatigues lying on the ground. Other armed security personnel shouted at each other in front of what appeared to be a viewing stand for the parade. His father, Sa’dollah Eghdami, told Irna: “My four-year-old Taha had come to watch the pageant, he was supposed to go to nursery tomorrow but they martyred him in front of my own eyes in the most brutal way.” He said his wife was being treated in hospital for injuries.
The semi-official ISNA news agency published photographs of the aftermath in which bloodied troops in dress uniforms could be seen helping each other away from the scene on Ahvaz’s Quds, or Jerusalem Boulevard. Other soldiers were seen shielding children on the ground from potential further attacks. A veteran from the 1980s Iran-Iraq war was killed in his wheelchair, and a journalist was also among the dead.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. An Arab nationalist separatist group, called the Patriotic Arab Democratic Movement in Ahwaz, claimed responsibility for the attack. The spokesperson Yagoub Hor Altasteri told the London-based Iran International TV network that the attack was aimed at “the Revolutionary Guards and the armed forces of the Islamic Republic”.
Islamic State carried out a deadly assault on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran in June last year. At that point, that had been the only attack by the Sunni extremists inside Shia Iran, which has been deeply involved in the wars in Iraq and Syria where Isis once held vast territory. In November last year, the 52-year-old Iranian Arab secessionist Ahmad Mola Nissi, was killed in The Hague. It was suspected of being a political killing but officials have not blamed the Iranian state to date.
Ahvaz is the capital of Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province, where Arab separatists have attacked oil pipelines in the past. Iran’s ambassador to the UK, Hamid Baeidinejad, called on the British media regulator Ofcom to investigate Iran International which is run by a Saudi-owned company for airing the interview.
“Iran International has shamefully broadcast an interview with the spokesperson of the terrorist group behind today’s terrorist attack in Ahwaz. We condemn this heinous act and will pursue formally with Ofcom to investigate it as an act in supporting terrorism and violence,” he tweeted.
Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the attack on the parade, at which it wrongly suggested the Iranian president was speaking. Hassan Rouhani was in fact speaking at a different parade in the capital, Tehran.
Meanwhile, the foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, pointed the finger at Iran’s regional rivals, which Tehran has accused for many years of helping separatist groups.
“Terrorists recruited, trained, armed and paid by a foreign regime have attacked Ahvaz,” he tweeted, in an apparent reference to Saudi Arabia. “Children and journos among casualties. Iran holds regional terror sponsors and their US masters accountable for such attacks.”
The Revolutionary Guards said the attackers were affiliated to a terrorist group backed by Saudi Arabia. “The individuals who fired at the people and the armed forces during the parade are connected to the al-Ahvaziya group which is fed by Saudi Arabia,” the spokesman Ramezan Sharif said.
Abolfazl Shekarchi, a spokesman for the Iranian military, said the attack was not the responsibility of Isis, but of terrorists who he claimed were trained and organised by “two Gulf countries linked to the US and [Israel’s] Mossad agency”.
The British ambassador to Iran, Rob Macaire, tweeted: “Wherever it happens terrorism must be condemned. All our condolences to the families of the victims.”
Iran has not been immune to the kind of terrorist attacks seen in Europe in recent years, but attacks of such scale are rare. In June 2017, Isis terrorists carried out two simultaneous attacks in Tehran against the Iranian parliament building and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini, killing 17 civilians and wounding 43.
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