24 Killed During Iran Military Parade 09/22 08:06
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Gunmen disguised as soldiers attacked an annual Iranian
military parade Saturday in the country's oil-rich southwest, killing at least
24 people and wounding 53 in the bloodiest assault to strike the country in
The attack in Ahvaz saw gunfire sprayed into a crowd of marching
Revolutionary Guardsmen, bystanders and government officials watching from a
nearby riser. Suspicion immediately fell on the region's Arab separatists, who
previously only attacked unguarded oil pipelines under the cover of darkness.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif immediately blamed the attack
on regional countries and their "U.S. masters," calling the gunmen "terrorists
recruited, trained armed and paid" by foreign powers. That further raises
tensions in the Mideast as Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers is in
jeopardy after President Donald Trump withdrew America from the accord.
"Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives,"
Zarif wrote on Twitter.
The attack came as rows of Revolutionary Guardsmen marched down Ahvaz's
Quds, or Jerusalem, Boulevard, which like many other places around the country
saw an annual parade marking the start of Iran's long 1980s war with Iraq.
Images captured by state television showed journalists and onlookers turn to
look toward the first shots, then the rows of marchers broke as soldiers and
civilians sought cover under sustained gunfire.
"Oh God! Go go go! Lie down! Lie down!" one man screamed as a woman fled
with her baby.
In the aftermath, paramedics tended to the wounded as soldiers, some
bloodied in their dress uniforms, helped their comrades to ambulances.
The state-run IRNA news agency said the attack killed 24 people and wounded
53, citing "knowledgeable sources" without elaborating. It said gunmen wore
Guard uniforms and targeted a riser where military and police commanders were
"We suddenly realized that some armed people wearing fake military outfits
started attacking the comrades from behind (the stage) and then opened fire on
women and children," an unnamed wounded soldier told state TV. "They were just
aimlessly shooting around and did not have a specific target."
Details about the attack remained unclear immediately afterward. The
semi-official Fars news agency, which is close to the Guard, meanwhile said two
gunmen on a motorcycle wearing khaki uniforms carried out the attack.
Khuzestan Gov. Gholamreza Shariati told IRNA that two gunmen were killed and
two others were arrested.
State TV hours later reported that all four gunmen had been killed, with
three dying during the attack and one later succumbing to his wounds at a
Who carried out the assault also remained in question. State television
immediately described the assailants as "takfiri gunmen," a term previously
used to describe the Islamic State group. Iran has been deeply involved in the
fight against IS in Iraq and has aided embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad
in his country's long war.
But in the hours following the attack, state media and government officials
seemed to come to the consensus that Arab separatists in the region were
responsible. The separatists, however, previously only conducted pipeline
bombings at night or hit-and-run attacks.
The separatists accuse Iran's Shiite theocracy of discriminating against its
Sunni Arab citizens. Iran has blamed its Mideast archrival, the Sunni kingdom
of Saudi Arabia, for funding their activity. State media in Saudi Arabia did
not immediately acknowledge the attack.
The Islamic State group later claimed responsibility in a message on its
Amaaq news agency, but provided no evidence it carried out the assault. The
militants have made a string of false claims in the wake of major defeats in
Iraq and Syria.
In Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani watched a military parade that
included ballistic missiles capable of reaching Israel and U.S. military bases
in the Mideast. Rouhani said the U.S. withdraw from the nuclear deal was an
attempt to get Iran to give up its military arsenal.
"Iran neither put its defensive arms aside nor lessens its defensive
capabilities," Rouhani said. "Iran will add to its defensive power day by day."
Saturday's attack comes after a coordinated June 7, 2017 Islamic State group
assault on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran.
At least 18 people were killed and more than 50 wounded.
Khomeini led the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Western-backed
shah to become Iran's first supreme leader until his death in 1989. The assault
shocked Tehran, which largely has avoided militant attacks in the decades after
the tumult surrounding the Islamic Revolution.
In the last decade, such attacks have been incredibly rare. In 2009 more
than 40 people, including six Guard commanders, were killed in a suicide attack
by Sunni extremists in Iran's Sistan and Baluchistan province.
Iran's Revolutionary Guard is a paramilitary force answerable only to
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Guard also has vast holdings in