Suicide bombers and gunmen have attacked the Iranian parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini’s mausoleum in Tehran, killing at least 13 people in an unprecedented assault that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards blamed on regional rival Saudi Arabia.
Islamic State claimed have responsibility for Wednesday’s attack and threatened more against Iran’s majority Shi’ite population, seen by the hardline Sunni militants as heretics.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted: “Terror-sponsoring despots threaten to bring the fight to our homeland. Proxies attack what their masters despise most: the seat of democracy.”
He did not explicitly blame any country but the tweet appeared to refer to comments made by Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud, in May, saying that Riyadh would bring “the battle” for regional influence to Iran.
Sunni Saudi Arabia denied any involvement in the Tehran attacks, but the assault further fuels tensions between Riyadh and Tehran as they vie for control of the Gulf and influence in the wider Islamic world. It comes days after Riyadh and other Sunni Muslim powers cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of backing Tehran and militant groups.
They were the first attacks claimed by Islamic State inside the tightly controlled Shi’ite Muslim country, one of the powers leading the fight against IS forces in nearby Iraq and Syria.
The deputy head of Iran’s National Security Council, Reza Seifollhai, told state TV late on Wednesday that the attackers were people from Iran who had joined Islamic State. Iranian police said they had arrested five suspects
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said: “These fireworks have no effect on Iran. They will soon be eliminated.”
“They are too small to affect the will of the Iranian nation and its officials,” state TV quoted him saying.
The powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps accused Riyadh of being behind the attacks and vowed to seek revenge.
“This terrorist attack happened only a week after the meeting between the US president (Donald Trump) and the (Saudi) backward leaders who support terrorists. The fact that Islamic State has claimed responsibility proves that they were involved in the brutal attack,” a Guards statement said.
Trump said in a statement that he prayed for the victims of the attacks but added that “states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.” The US State Department and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres both condemned the attacks.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said he did not know who was responsible for the attacks and said there was no evidence Saudi extremists were involved.
Attackers dressed as women burst through parliament’s main entrance, deputy interior minister Mohammad Hossein Zolfaghari said, according to the Tasnim news agency. One of them detonated a suicide vest, he said.
On a video released by the IS news agency Amaq a man purportedly inside the parliament says in Arabic: “Oh God, thank you.. Do you think we will leave? No! We will remain, God willing.”
Police helicopters circled over parliament, with snipers on its rooftop. Within five hours, four attackers were dead and the incident was over, Iranian media 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.
Soon after the assault on parliament began, a bomber detonated a suicide vest near the shrine of the Islamic Republic’s revered founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, a few kilometres south of the city, Zolfaghari said.