External Affairs

ISIS Attacks Iran Parliament, Khomeini Mausoleum in Tehran, Kills 12

Iranian police stand near the parliament’s building during a gunmen attack in central Tehran, Iran, June 7, 2017. Credit: TIMA via Reuters

London/Cairo: Attackers raided Iran’s parliament and opened fire at the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini a few kilometres south of the capital on Wednesday morning, in near simultaneous assaults that killed up to seven people, media reported.

ISIS claimed responsibility for both the attacks, the group’s state news agency AMAQ said.

“Fighters from Islamic state attacked Khomeini’s shrine and the Iranian parliament in Tehran,” the news agency said.

Tasmin news agency said there were unconfirmed reports that the attackers had taken four hostages inside the parliament building.

Three assailants, one with a pistol and two with AK-47 assault rifles, carried out the attack in central Tehran, lawmaker Elias Hazrati told state television.

Another lawmaker said one of the assailants was surrounded by security forces and all the doors to the building had been closed, ISNA news agency reported. The attackers killed seven people and wounded several others, Tasmin said.

“I was inside the parliament when shooting happened. Everyone was shocked and scared. I saw two men shooting randomly,” said one journalist at the scene, who asked not to be named.

Around half an hour later, an attacker opened fire at the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini, injuring several members of the public, Iran’s English-language Press TV said.

State news agency IRNA quoted an official at the mausoleum as saying the attacker had set off a suicide bomb after shooting at people.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini launched the Islamic revolution in 1979.

Iranian TV said parliament had resumed, and broadcast footage of what it said was the opening session proceeding normally.

Smoke is seen during a gunmen attack at the parliament's building in central Tehran, Iran, June 7, 2017. Credit: TIMA via Reuters

Smoke is seen during a gunmen attack at the parliament’s building in central Tehran, Iran, June 7, 2017. Credit: TIMA via Reuters

Third attack foiled, says ministry

The intelligence ministry said security forces had arrested another “terrorist team” planning a third attack, without giving further details.

The attacks took place less than a month after the re-election of President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate, whose landslide victory defeated candidates supported by the hardline clergy and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is responsible for national security.

“The atmosphere is tense. It is a blow to Rouhani. How can four armed men enter the parliament, where a very tight security has always been in place,” said a senior official, who asked not to be named.

The intelligence ministry called on people to be vigilant and report any suspicious movement. Despite unconfirmed reports of a hostage situation, state television said parliament had resumed, and broadcast footage of what it said was the opening session proceeding normally.

“Some coward terrorists infiltrated one of the buildings of parliament. They were confronted. It was not a major issue. Our security forces have taken necessary steps,” parliament speaker Ali Larijani said in an open session broadcast live by state TV.

Attacks are highly rare in Tehran and other major cities though a Sunni militant group named Jundallah and its splinter group Ansar al Furqan have been waging a deadly insurgency, mostly in more remote areas, for almost a decade.

Iran’s restive Sistan and Baluchestan province, in the southeast on the borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan, is home to the Balouch minority and has long been a hotbed of Sunni insurgents fighting the Shi’ite-led Islamic Republic.

Last year Iranian authorities said they had foiled a plot by Sunni militants to bomb targets in Tehran and other cities during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

ISIS has often urged its fighters to attack Iranian targets and lambasted “heretic” Shi’ite Iran for helping the Syrian and Iraqi governments battle ISIS, which considers Shi’ites to be infidels.

A video released by Islamic State’s news agency Amaq included an audio track of a man saying: “Oh God, thank you. [Gunshots]. Do you think we will leave? No! We will remain, God willing.”

(Reuters)