Iran says United States ally behind military parade attack

Charlene Craig
September 24, 2018

President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday Iran was ready to confront the United States and its Gulf Arab allies, a day after an attack on an Iranian military parade killed 25 people, including 12 members of the elite Revolutionary Guards.

IRNA reported civilians, including women and children, who were watching the parade in the southwestern city Ahvaz, are among the dead and injured.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far.

The parade was being held to mark the anniversary of the start of the war with Iraq in 1980.

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif blamed "terrorists paid by a foreign regime", adding that "Iran holds regional terror sponsors and their United States masters accountable". Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives.

"Terrorists recruited, trained, armed & paid by a foreign regime have attacked Ahvaz".

Reports say almost half of those killed were members of the Revolutionary Guard, who are under Mr Khamenei's command.

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Tehran also summoned diplomats from Denmark, the Netherlands and Britain for allegedly hosting members of the group suspected of links to Saturday's attack near the Iraqi border that left at least 29 people dead.

On Sunday morning, Iran summoned diplomats from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Denmark, accusing them of harbouring Iranian opposition groups.

The attack on the military parade is likely to give security hardliners like the Guards more political ammunition because they did not endorse the pragmatist Rouhani's pursuit of the nuclear deal with the West, analysts say. A local news agency in Khuzestan province, of which Ahvaz is the capital, aired grainy mobile phone footage showing parade goers fleeing as soldiers lay flat on the ground.

The attack took place in Ahvaz, with the assailants apparently targeting Revolutionary Guardsmen.

Within hours of this statement, the Islamic State also claimed to be behind the attack and pledged more violence to avenge Sunnis.

Attacks on the military are rare in Iran.

"Iran's answer (to this attack) is forthcoming within the framework of law and our national interests", said Rouhani, adding that the United States would regret its "aggressiveness".

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"The attacks are doubtlessly meant to tarnish the prestige of the IRGC, but I believe the terrorist incidents will strengthen the IRGC's standing and even mobilize some public support", said Ali Alfoneh, senior fellow at the Gulf Arab States Institute in Washington.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said Iran "asked their governments to condemn the attack and extradite people linked to it to Iran to be put on trial".

"It is absolutely clear to us who has done this, which group it is and to whom they are affiliated", Rouhani said on state television ahead of his departure from Tehran for this week's U.N. General Assembly in NY.

Rouhani said Sunday that the US supports small nations in the southern Persian Gulf that in turn back the militants behind the attack.

In its annual Country Reports on Terrorism released on September 19, the State Department claimed that Iran remains the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism and is responsible for intensifying multiple conflicts and undermining U.S. interests in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Bahrain, Afghanistan, and Lebanon. Iran backs militant groups across the region.

The Islamic State group carried out a coordinated assault in June 2017 on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Some officials and the official government news agency IRNA confirmed the claim by the Ahvaz National Resistance umbrella group, which was created in 2005.

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