Iran Revolutionary Guards threaten to avenge military parade attack

Arturo Kim
September 24, 2018

"Their crime is a continuation of the plots of the regional states that are puppets of the United States, and whose goal is to create insecurity in our dear country", Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement issued on September 22 a few hours after gunmen attacked a parade in the city of Ahvaz, the capital of the southwestern Khuzestan province, where the majority of Iran's ethnic Arabs live. It said gunmen wore military uniforms and targeted a riser where military and police commanders were sitting.

The separatist group Patriotic Arab Democratic Movement in Ahwaz claimed responsibility for the attack, according to IRNA.

State television aired footage of the aftermath of the assault on Ahvaz's Quds, or Jerusalem, Boulevard, which like many other places around the country saw an annual parade marking the start of Iran's long 1980s war with Iraq.

Nearly immediately, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed regional rivals and their "U.S. masters", which was interpreted as a reference to Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised a "crushing response" against Saturday's attack.

Syria, another ally, also condemned the attacks, standing in "full sympathy and solidarity with the Islamic Republic of Iran", said a Syrian foreign ministry official.

Iran will face pressure to respond to the high-profile attack on the Revolutionary Guards, the strategic force with the greatest commitment to the clerical leadership.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Qasemi called on Denmark and the Netherlands to extradite the "perpetrators and their accomplices" to stand trial, IRNA reported.

The Leader said the "tragic and sorrowful" incident in Ahvaz and the killing of people by mercenary terrorists once again exposed the cruelty of the enemies of the Iranian nation.

The attack lasted about 10 minutes, the BBC's David Bamford told NPR.

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Both the Islamic State (IS) and an anti-government Arab group have claimed responsibility for the attack.

Iran has rejected the annual report by US Department of State on terrorism, saying the United States is responsible for the continuance of this scourge in the region and across the world.

Zarif also said journalists were among the victims, but that has not been confirmed.

Despite the Trump administration's touchy relations with Iran, the USA government strongly deplored the attack, saying that "the United States condemns all acts of terrorism and the loss of any innocent lives".

The attack came four months after President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, against the advice of the global community and the wishes of 63 percent of the American public.

Rouhani leaves Sunday for NY to attend next week's United Nations General Assembly along with Trump, but Iran has repeatedly ruled out any meeting.

IS claimed the attack via its propaganda mouthpiece Amaq and, according to intelligence monitor SITE, said the attack was in response to Iranian involvement in conflicts across the region. In June 2017, coordinated assaults claimed by Islamic State on the country's parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini killed 17 people.

Who carried out the assault also remained in question.

Protests against the government and its handling of the economy that erupted across many provinces late a year ago also took place in some cities in Khuzestan, where some of the most violent incidents took place.

In a keynote speech, Rouhani vowed to boost Iran's ballistic missile capabilities despite Western concerns that were cited by his USA counterpart Donald Trump in May when he abandoned a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran.

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