Tehran: The Islamic State group claimed a pair of attacks today on Iran’s parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, which have killed at least 12 people and wounded more than 30 people.
State broadcaster IRIB reported that the shooting incident at the Iranian parliament is over and all four assailants are now dead. “The security forces are checking for bombs and clearing the building,” IRIB said.
It marks the first attack in Iran claimed by the extremist group, which is at war with Iranian-backed forces in Syria and Iraq. In a message posted through its Aamaq News Agency, the IS group claimed its fighters were behind the assaults.
Islamic State has also published a video showing gunmen in Iranian parliament. Gunman in video can be heard saying “thank God… do you think we will go away?”
The attacks began midmorning when assailants armed with Kalashnikov rifles stormed the parliament building. One of the attackers later blew himself up inside, where a session had been in progress, according to a statement carried by Iran’s state TV.
Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Hossein Zolfaghari told Iran’s state TV the apparently male attackers wore women’s attire.
First statement from the Iran Intelligence Agency:
The Iranian intelligence ministry announced that three terrorist teams attempted to launch attacks in different parts of Tehran on Wednesday, adding that members of a terrorist group were arrested.
The director-general of the intelligence ministry for anti-terrorism operations said that members of a terrorist team were arrested in Tehran on Wednesday before taking any action.
The intelligence ministry also announced that the Wednesday shootings and bombings in the parliament and the holy shrine of Imam Khomeini were targeted by the terrorist attacks.
Several assailants raided the holy shrine of the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini, South of the capital Tehran on Wednesday morning, killing one and wounding several people in a bomb attack and a shooting spree.
Also, four unknown male assailants fired several rounds at the guards protecting the parliament building in Tehran, killing four and wounding over 10 people on Wednesday morning. Daesh has claimed responsibility of the attack.
Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said, “Wednesday’s terrorist shooting inside parliament was a ‘minor incident’ and security forces are fully capable of handling the ‘cowardly attackers’.”
Ali Larijani, who chaired today’s open session of parliament despite ongoing attacks behind closed doors, said the attack indicates that terrorists are seeking to create problems for Iran.
“Iran is an active and effective hub for combating terrorism, and terrorists wish to undermine such activities,” he said.
An Associated Press reporter saw several police snipers on the rooftops of buildings around the parliament. Shops in the area were shuttered, and gunfire could be heard. Witnesses said the attackers were shooting from the fourth floor of the parliament building down at people in the streets below.
“I was passing by one of the streets. I thought that children were playing with fireworks, but I realised people are hiding and lying down on the streets,” Ebrahim Ghanimi, who was around the parliament building when the assailants stormed in, told The Associated Press. “With the help of a taxi driver, I reached a nearby alley.”
Police helicopters circled over the parliament building and all mobile phone lines from inside were disconnected. The semi-official ISNA news agency said all entrance and exit gates at parliament were closed and that lawmakers and reporters were ordered to remain in place inside the chamber.
Soon after the parliament attack, a suicide bomber and other assailants targeted the shrine located just outside the capital, Tehran, according to Iran’s official state broadcaster. It said a security guard was killed and that one of the attackers was killed by security guards. A woman was also arrested.
In addition to being lethal, the attack on the shrine of Khomeini is symbolically stunning. As Iran’s first Supreme Leader, Khomeini is a towering figure in the country and was its revolutionary leader in the 1979 ouster of the shah.
An Associated Press reporter saw security forces, some uniformed and others in plain clothes, around the large and ornate shrine.
The IS group often claims attacks around the world, even when links to the group cannot be confirmed and appear dubious. Iranian security officials have not said who they suspect is behind the attacks, though state media has referred to the attackers as “terrorists”.
Sunni extremists, including the IS, despise Shiite-majority Iran. Iran has also come under attack in the past by Arab insurgents.
The unusual attacks in Iran prompted the Interior Ministry to call for an urgent security meeting, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. Officials urged people to avoid using public transportation until further notice.
IS published a rare video in Persian in March, warning that it “will conquer Iran and restore it to the Sunni Muslim nation as it was before.”
IS and other extremists consider Shiites to be apostates, and the video accuses Iranians of persecuting Sunnis over the centuries and into modern times.