Rouhani says group behind military parade attack financed by Gulf states

Leroy Wright
September 24, 2018

A local journalist who witnessed the attack said shots rang out for 10 to 15 minutes and that at least one of the assailants, armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, wore the uniform of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

The Islamic State released a statement that claimed responsibility for Saturday's attack shortly after it occurred, though a separatist Arab militant group also claimed it was behind the attack.

Relations between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia - Washington's main Arab ally in the Middle East - have been deteriorating, with both sides accusing each other of creating instability in the region.

Ahvaz is the capital of Khuzestan province, an oil-rich region where Arab separatists have been known to attack oil pipelines in the past.

A soldier runs past injured comrades at the scene of an attack on a military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak its 1980-1988 war with Iraq.

Islamic State said via Amaq, the news outlet linked to the group, that "Islamic State fighters attacked a gathering of Iranian forces" in Ahvaz.

Despite the Trump administration's touchy relations with Iran, the USA government strongly deplored the attack, saying that "the United States condemns all acts of terrorism and the loss of any innocent lives".

Armed forces spokesman Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi said the dead included a young girl and a former serviceman in a wheelchair.

Speaking to MEE, Rasool Hosseini, a reformist foreign policy analyst, said: "I think today's attack is in line with the U.S. and its regional allies' strategy to pressure Iran".

Tensions are running high after the attack with the USA and Gulf Arab states also being blamed by furious official in Tehran.

But later, state media and government officials seemed to come to the consensus that Arab separatists in the region were responsible.

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This photo shows the aftermath of a terrorist attack on a military parade in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz on September 22, 2018.

The US government strongly condemned the attack and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday blasted Iran's leadership for pointing fingers at the US and its allies. The attack is meant to undermine Iran's security and stability and as "punishment for ... its rejection of American dependency politics", the statement claimed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed condolences to his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, over a deadly terrorist attack and reaffirmed readiness to intensify counterterror cooperation, the Kremlin said Saturday.

"We stand with the Iranian people against the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism and express our sympathy to them at this bad time", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

But attacks on regime targets inside major cities are far rarer.

President Trump is open to meeting with Iranian leaders at this week's UN General Assembly meeting, Pompeo said.

Khamanei's allegation will likely ratchet up tensions with Iran's rival Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, which along with the United States have been working to isolate Iran.

Tehran summoned diplomats from Denmark, the Netherlands and Britain for allegedly hosting members of the group suspected of links to Saturday's attack that killed 24 people, according to a revised death toll.

Qassemi pointed to a bloody terrorist attack in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz on Saturday, saying that the United States made baseless allegations against Iran while the Islamic Republic is one of the main victims of acts of terror by terrorist groups.

Early reports called the attackers "Takifiri gunmen", a description that has previously been used for members of the "Islamic State" (IS) group.

Last year, in the first deadly assault claimed by Islamic State in Tehran, 18 people were killed at the parliament and mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic.

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