Tuesday, February 19, 2019 | ePaper

Death toll in Iran military parade attack rises to 24: IRNA

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A general view of the attack during the military parade in Ahvaz, Iran Sept 22, 2018. Tasnim News Agency via Reuters



Reuters : Gunmenfired on a military parade in southwestern Iran on Saturday, killing24 people, half of them members of the Revolutionary Guards, state newsagencies 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 Iranianofficials had gathered to watch an annual event marking the start of theIslamic Republic's 1980-88 war with Iraq.

"There are a number ofnon-military victims, including women and children who had come to watch theparade," state news IRNA agency quoted an unnamed official source assaying.

The Islamic Revolutionary GuardsCorp (IRGC) have been the sword and shield of Shi'ite clerical rulesince Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution. The Guards also play a major rolein Iran's regional interests in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

"Three of the terrorists werekilled on the spot and a fourth one who was injured died in hospital,"Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, a senior spokesman for Iran's armedforces, told state television.

A video distributed to Iranianmedia showed soldiers crawling on the ground as gunfire blazed in theirdirection. One soldier picked up a gun and got to his feet as women andchildren fled for their lives.

Ali Hosein Hoseinzadeh, deputygovernor in Khuzestan province, was quoted as saying the death toll wasexpected to rise. One of those killed was a journalist.

The bloodshed struck a blow tosecurity in OPEC oil producer Iran, which has been relatively stablecompared with neighbouring Arab countries that have grappled with upheavalsince the 2011 uprisings across the Middle East.

There was no immediate claim ofresponsibility for the attack in the city of Ahvaz.

State television blamed"takfiri elements", a reference to Sunni Muslim militants, for theattack. Ahvaz is in the centre of Khuzestan province, where there have beensporadic protests by the Arab minority in predominantly Shi'ite Iran.

Foreign Minister Mohammed JavadZarif said the assault was the handiwork of "regional terrorsponsors", language that usually refers to Iran's enemies SaudiArabia and Israel, and "their U.S. masters". He vowed Tehran wouldrespond decisively.

The semi-official news agency ISNAsaid an unnamed spokesman for the Revolutionary Guards blamed Arab nationalistsbacked by Saudi Arabia for the attack.

DOMINANT MILITARY FORCE

The Revolutionary Guards are themost powerful and heavily armed military force in the Islamic Republic and alsohave a vast stake worth billions of dollars in the economy.

Kurdish militants killed 10Revolutionary Guards in an attack on an IRGC post on the Iraqi border inJuly, Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency reported, the latestbloodshed in an area where armed Kurdish opposition groups are active.

Iran will be scrambling todetermine the motives for the Saturday's high-profile attack as it facesgrowing U.S. pressure.

President Donald Trump decided inMay to pull the United States out of the 2015 international nuclear deal withTehran and reimpose sanctions in a bid to isolate the Islamic Republic.

"WHERE DID THEY COMEFROM?"

Trump will fail in his confrontationwith Iran, just like Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Iranian President HassanRouhani said, referring to the war in the 1980s between the two Middle Easternpowers and vowing that Tehran will not abandon its missiles.

As Rouhanispoke, Iran began displaying its naval power in the Gulf duringannual parades in the capital Tehran and the port of Bandar Abbas on the Gulf.

Iran has suggested in recentweeks that it could take military action in the Gulf to block other countries’oil exports in retaliation for U.S. sanctions intended to halt its sales ofcrude.

A video on state television'swebsite showed confused soldiers at the scene of the attack. Standing in frontof the stand, one asked: "Where did they come from?" Anotherresponded: "From behind us."

Four militants carried out theattack and two of them were killed, according to ISNA. There has been no claimof responsibility for the attack in the city of Ahvaz.

Iran was holding similarparades in several cities including the capital Tehran and the port of BandarAbbas on the Gulf.

"Shooting began by severalgunmen from behind the stand during the parade. There are several killed andinjured," a correspondent told state television.

Tensions between mainlyShi'ite Iran and mostly Sunni Saudi Arabia have surged in recentyears, with the two countries supporting opposite sides in wars in Syria andYemen and rival political parties in Iraq and Lebanon.

Attacks on the military are rarein Iran.

Last year, in the first deadlyassault claimed by Islamic State in Tehran, 18 people were killed at theparliament and mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and firstsupreme leader of the Islamic Republic.

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