In the largest terror attack to strike Iran since the June 2017 ISIS raid on Tehran’s parliament, four Arab militants opened fire at an annual Iranian armed forces’ military parade in the southwestern city of Ahvaz on Saturday morning.
Although reports differ, as many as 29 have been killed and over 70 are said to be injured. Among the dead include women, children and a wheelchair-bound Iranian war veteran.
According to eyewitness accounts, shortly after 9 a.m. local time, gunfire erupted as Iranian servicemen marched down the parade route when one militant dressed as a member of the Revolutionary Guard randomly opened fire on the parade members, spectators and Iranian officials in the grandstand.
An annual event held throughout in Iran known as Sacred Defense Week, local elements of the Islamic Republic Army, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, national police and Basij (volunteer) forces marched to commemorate the eight-year war with Iraq, fought 1980–’88.
While early reports said two attackers were killed, one injured and a fourth captured, Iranian FARS news agency is now reporting all four attackers were killed in the attack.
An Arab separatist group, the Ahvaz National Resistance, has claimed responsibility for the attack. Similarly, ISIS news agency, Amaq, also broadcast its responsibility for the ambush.
A splinter group affiliated with the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz, Ahvaz National Resistance has been involved in a protracted fight with Tehran to separate the Khuzestan Province from Iran and form an independent Arab state.
Responding to the carnage without specifically naming local actors, Iran immediately pointed the finger at regional adversaries and the U.S., with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stating “U.S. puppets” were stoking unrest to undermine the Iranian regime.
A direct charge at rival Saudi Arabia, Iran has repeatedly accused Riyadh of sheltering and funding anti-Tehran Arab separatists.
Lashing out after the attack, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani referred to the U.S. as a “bully,” and blamed Washington’s Arab allies for the massacre.
“It is absolutely clear to us who committed this crime . . . and whom they are linked to. The small puppet countries in the region are backed by America, and the U.S. is provoking them and giving them the necessary capabilities. The U.S. showed the world their bullying nature and they keep continuing their unilateral policies,” Rouhani angrily declared after the incident.
Dismissing any role in the ambush, Ambassador Nikki Haley, the top U.S. diplomat to the U.N., responded to Tehran’s charges, replying Tehran would served best with some introspection. Haley also took the opportunity to deny the U.S. seeks to topple Iran’s government.
During a Sunday appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, Haley told Rouhani and Iranian leaders to “look into the mirror” before assigning blame on Washington.
“He’s got the Iranian people are protesting, every ounce of money that goes into Iran goes into his military, he has oppressed his people for a long time and he needs to look at his own base to figure out where that’s coming from,” Haley said.
President Trump will chair a U.N. Security Council meeting this week over Iran’s nuclear program. Iranian President Rouhani is expected to be in New York.
[Reuters] [RT] [BBC] [Photo courtesy Oman Daily Observer]