Islamic State attackers in Tehran were Iranians, death toll raised to 16

The six attackers who targeted Iran’s Parliament complex and Ayatollah Khomeini’s mausoleum were Iranian nationals, a senior security official has said.
Members of Iranian security forces take cover during the attack on the Iranian parliament in central Tehran on June 7, 2017.(Reuters)
Members of Iranian security forces take cover during the attack on the Iranian parliament in central Tehran on June 7, 2017.(Reuters)
Updated on Jun 08, 2017 09:48 PM IST
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Tehran | ByAgencies

The attackers who stormed Iran’s parliament complex and revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s shrine were Iranian nationals who had joined the Islamic State (IS) group, a top official said.

The six attackers “were Iranian and joined Daesh (IS) from some parts of Iran”, Reza Seifollahi, deputy secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said on state TV late on Wednesday.

The parliament attackers were in their early 20s and spoke Arabic, according to a Revolutionary Guards intelligence official.

Authorities also said they had arrested six suspects, including a woman, since the attacks in Tehran on Wednesday. The intelligence ministry said there had been a third “terrorist” team that was neutralised before the attacks started.

Read more | Iran Guards claim US, Saudi ‘involved’ in Tehran attacks

These were the first attacks in Iran claimed by IS, which has threatened to step up its campaign in the country in recent months. Iran is a key fighting force against IS and other groups in Iraq and Syria, and the Sunni jihadis consider Iran’s Shia Muslims to be apostates.

Authorities also raised the death toll in the attacks to 16 people killed. State television reported the increase on Thursday, citing Ahmad Shojaei, head of the forensic center.

Shojaei told state TV that “three of the victims are women” but did not elaborate. More than 40 people were wounded.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shrugged off the attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers as US President Donald Trump warned the nation was reaping what it sowed.

“These fire-crackers that happened today will not have the slightest effect on the will of the people,” Khamenei said.

The six attackers struck at Iran’s most potent symbols: its parliament complex in central Tehran and the mausoleum of Khomeini who led the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Trump expressed sympathy for the victims but levelled a barbed warning at Iran, after the US leader took a hard line on Tehran during a recent Middle East visit. “We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote,” he said in a brief statement.

Speaking earlier on Wednesday, President Hassan Rouhani called for global unity against violent extremism.

“Iran’s message as always is that terrorism is a global problem, and unity to fight extremism, violence and terrorism with regional and international cooperation is the most important need of today’s world,” he said in a statement.

Read more | Islamic State warns of more attacks in Iran, says ‘caliphate will not miss a chance to spill their blood’

Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards vowed revenge and claimed the US and Saudi Arabia were “involved”. In a statement after the attacks, the Guards said they “will never allow the blood of innocents to be spilt without revenge”.

The standoff lasted around five hours before all the attackers holed up in parliamentary office buildings were killed. The IS released a video of the attackers from inside the building via its Amaq agency – a rare claim of responsibility while an attack was still going on, suggesting a degree of coordination.

The assaults began mid-morning when four attackers burst into the parliament complex, killing a guard and one other person, according to ISNA news agency.

‘Suddenly shooting began’

Another official said the attackers were dressed as women and entered through the visitors’ entrance. One eventually exploded a suicide vest while the others were killed by security forces.

One man, recovering in a hospital bed, told state TV he was waiting to meet an MP when shooting broke out. “I was in the visitors’ lobby and suddenly shooting began. There were women and children. I escaped towards the parliament, and was shot in the leg while running,” he said.

At roughly the same time, two attackers entered the grounds of the Khomeini mausoleum, killing a gardener and wounding several other people. One detonated a suicide vest, while the other was shot dead.

It was not clear whether the shrine attackers were women, as earlier reported, or just wearing female clothing.

Iran, the predominant Shia power, is a priority target for IS, which published a rare video in Persian in March warning it “will conquer Iran and restore it to the Sunni Muslim nation as it was before”.

Shias make up roughly 90% of Iran’s population, but the country has a sizeable Sunni minority, particularly around its restive borders with Iraq and Pakistan.

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