Gunmen kill 24, including 12 Revolutionary Guards, in attack on Iran military parade
DUBAI - Gunmen fired on a military parade in southwestern Iran on Saturday, killing 24 people, half of them members of the Revolutionary Guards, state news agencies reported, in one of the worst attacks ever on the elite force.
State television said the assault, which wounded more than 60 people, targeted a stand where Iranian officials had gathered to watch an annual event marking the start of the Islamic Republic's 1980-88 war with Iraq.
"There are a number of non-military victims, including women and children who had come to watch the parade," state news IRNA agency quoted an unnamed official source as saying.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) have been the sword and shield of Shi'ite clerical rule since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution. The Guards also play a major role in Iran's regional interests in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
"Three of the terrorists were killed on the spot and a fourth one who was injured died in hospital," Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, a senior spokesman for Iran's armed forces, told state television.
A video distributed to Iranian media showed soldiers crawling on the ground as gunfire blazed in their direction. One soldier picked up a gun and got to his feet as women and children fled for their lives.
Ali Hosein Hoseinzadeh, deputy governor in Khuzestan province, was quoted as saying the death toll was expected to rise. One of those killed was a journalist.
The bloodshed struck a blow to security in OPEC oil producer Iran, which has been relatively stable compared with neighbouring Arab countries that have grappled with upheaval since the 2011 uprisings across the Middle East.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack in the city of Ahvaz.
State television blamed "takfiri elements", a reference to Sunni Muslim militants, for the attack. Ahvaz is in the centre of Khuzestan province, where there have been sporadic protests by the Arab minority in predominantly Shi'ite Iran.
Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said the assault was the handiwork of "regional terror sponsors", language that usually refers to Iran's enemies Saudi Arabia and Israel, and "their U.S. masters". He vowed Tehran would respond decisively.
The semi-official news agency ISNA said an unnamed spokesman for the Revolutionary Guards blamed Arab nationalists backed by Saudi Arabia for the attack.
Anti-government Arab group claims responsibility for attack on Iran military parade
An anti-government Arab group, the Ahvaz National Resistance, is responsible for Saturday's attack on a military parade in Iran's southwestern city of Ahvaz, a spokesperson told Reuters.
Yaghub Hur Totsari, spokesman for one of the two groups that identify themselves as the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz, said the Ahvaz National Resistance, an umbrella organization of all armed movements, was behind the attack but did not specify which group.
Totsari identified one of the assailants by the initials A.M., without elaborating.