Gunmen attack Iran military parade, kill 29

Teheran blames the terrorist attack in Ahvaz on regional countries and their 'US masters'

Photo: EPA

Gunmen disguised as soldiers attacked an annual Iranian military parade Saturday in the country's oil-rich southwest, shooting dead at least 29 people, including women, children and journalists, in the bloodiest assault to strike the country in recent years. According recent media reports Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the shooting rampage in Ahvaz dubbed a "terrorist" attack by the authorities, in which at least 57 people were also wounded.

Country's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif however immediately blamed the attack on regional countries and their "US masters," calling the gunmen "terrorists recruited, trained armed and paid" by foreign powers.

"Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives," Zarif tweeted, further raising tensions in the Mideast as Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers is in jeopardy after President Donald Trump withdrew America from the accord.

Later on, similar opinion was expressed also by the Iranian military spokesman, who claimed that the gunmen were trained by two Gulf Arab states and had ties to the United States and Israel.

"These terrorists... were trained and organised by two ... Gulf countries," Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi told the official news agency IRNA. "They are not from Daesh (Islamic State) or other groups fighting (Iran's) Islamic system ... but they are linked to America and (Israel's intelligence agency) Mossad." 

The brazen 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. According to semi-official Fars news agency four gunmen opened fire on the large crowd of spectators watching the parade and then attempted to attack the viewing stand for official dignitaries before being shot and wounded by security forces.

Images and videos 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.

"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."

Hours later state media reported that all four gunmen had been killed, with three dying during the attack and one later succumbing to his wounds at a hospital.

Saturday's attack comes after a coordinated June 7, 2017, ISIS 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 however, such attacks have been incredibly rare.

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