White House Appears to Link Attack to Iran's Support of Terrorism
In a statement attributed to President Trump, the White House said:
We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times. We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.
Official From Iran's Revolutionary Guard Says Saudis Behind Tehran Attack
Hossein Nejat, the deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Committee, said Saudi Arabia and the U.S. ordered the attacks in Tehran, but offered no details or evidence.
Official Iranian Statement on the Attacks
Iran’s Interior Ministry has issued a statement on the attack. Here it is:
On Wednesday, two terrorist teams simultaneously tried to conduct blind terrorist acts in the vicinity of the Mausoleum of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini, and also in Iran’s Parliament.
The first terrorist team consisted of two people who entered the Imam Khomeini Mausoleum at around 10:30 a.m. One of them blew up her vest and the second was killed in a fire exchange with security forces.
The second team was composed of four people, who concurrently with the first team, tried to enter the administrative building of the Parliament. Facing reaction from the security forces, one of them detonated his vest and the three others were killed in a shoot-out with the police forces while trying to reach the upper floors of the parliament building.
Based on reports, 12 people have been killed and 42 other injured in these two incidents.
At the moment, both events are over and everything is fully under the control of security and military forces. Further news of these events will subsequently be published.
To verify the details and exact dimensions of the two incidents, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council will hold a meeting chaired by the Interior Minister later on Wednesday.
In order to prevent the spread of false news, it is advised that all the media outlets avoid publishing unofficial news.
Death Toll Rises to 12, Local News Reports Say
Local media, citing Iranian officials, say 12 people are dead in the two attacks and dozens of others wounded. It’s unclear if the fatalities include the attackers.
Four attackers targeted the Majlis, Iran’s parliament; all four are dead, the FARS news agency reported. While FARS reported that all four were killed by security forces, IRNA had previously reported one of the assailants was a suicide bomber.
Four attackers—three women and a man—attacked the mausoleum, Press TV reported. One of them was a suicide attacker. The others were arrested, Press TV reported.
Why the Attacks Are Significant
The attacks would be ISIS’s first strike inside Iran. Shia Iran has long been seen by its Sunni neighbors, as well Western nations, as a major source of regional instability. The country is often labeled the worst state sponsor of terrorism—because of its support of Palestinian militant groups; Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militia; as well as its now-mothballed nuclear program that was believed to be aimed not only at Israel, but also Saudi Arabia, its major regional rival.
Iran’s recent ascent began following the ouster of Saddam Hussein in Iraq by U.S.-led forces. This resulted in a Shia-dominated government that has friendly relations with Iran—much to the annoyance of Iraq’s Arab neighbors. Many of the biggest regional conflicts are seen to be proxy wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Nowhere is this more true that in Yemen where Iran-backed Houthi militia, who are nominally Shia, overthrew the country’s Saudi-backed government, plunging the region’s poorest nation into a bloody civil war. In Syria, Iranian fighters and Shia militia fight alongside troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Iran is also accused of fomenting unrest among minority Shia populations in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and other countries.
The Trump administration has not hidden its view that Iran is behind much of the regional instability. But while all this is true, it is also equally true that Iranian fighters have been among the most potent forces against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Iran troops and generals have fought against ISIS on the front lines, and more than 1,000 fighters are believed to have been killed in the operations in Syria alone.
ISIS, which espouses a strict version of Sunni Islam, regards the Shia as apostates, and, consequently, Iran as its enemy. Sunnis make up about 5 percent of Iran’s population (most of the rest are Shiite). Sunni militants are present in the country. As recently as April, militants from a group calling itself Jaish al Adl killed 10 Iranian border guards, near the frontier with Pakistan.
Will McCants, who is the director of the Brookings Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, has written about ISIS’s plans to hit Iran. Here’s more from his Twitter feed:
How the Events Unfolded
Mahdi Kiaie, the director-general of the parliament’s cultural and public-relations section, told IRNA the situation in the Majlis was under control. Security forces and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are in control of the facility, he said, adding the parliament was in session.
The attack was carried out by four men, IRNA reported, who opened fire. One of the attackers was said to be a suicide bomber. Another was said to be arrested, IRNA reported, citing a lawmaker. There was no word on what happened to the other two attackers on the Majlis. The New York Times reported that the situation was declared under control at 12:12 p.m. (3:52 a.m. ET)
Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani downplayed the attack.
“As you know, some coward terrorists infiltrated a building in Majlis (Parliament), but they were seriously confronted,” he said, according to IRNA. “This is a minor issue but reveals that the terrorists pursue troublemaking.”
Tehran’s security council convened to discuss the attacks.
The attack on the Ayatollah Khomeini’s mausoleum came soon afterward. IRNA reported Gunmen—numbered to be three or four—opened fire at pilgrims at the mausoleum in southern Tehran. The news agency said several people were injured. It cited Ali Khalili, the head of the mausoleum’s public-relations office, as saying one of the attackers was a suicide bomber.
UPDATE: At Least 2 People Are Reported Dead
Updated at 6:47 a.m.
IRNA, the state-run Iranian news agency, reported two people are dead and 38 wounded. It cited Abbass Zarenejad, a health ministry official. He said the injured are being treated at four hospitals in Tehran. FARS, a partially state-run agency, put the death toll at seven, according to CNN.
The BBC cited reports that a security guard was killed, but didn’t provide details. The New York Times also reported one person was killed. It cited comments made by a lawmaker. The lawmaker, Qolam-Ali Jafarzadeh Imenabadi, told IRNA that two other people were wounded in the attack.
ISIS Claims Responsibility
Update at 7:09 a.m.
ISIS says it is behind the attacks on the Iranian capital, making the claim through Amaq, its mouthpiece. It is the first attack in the Iranian capital claimed by the group. The claim comes soon after the attack—a departure from past practice when ISIS waited for a few hours before saying it was responsible.
ISIS has made quick claims following recent attacks in Manchester and Manila, but the extent of the group’s role in Manchester is still unclear and its role in Manila has been dismissed by authorities in the Philippines. The group has lost much ground in its strongholds in Iraq and Syria, but still has the capacity to strike in other parts of the world. An attack on Tehran—if ISIS were shown to be responsible—would be a major success for the terrorist group, which regards Shiites as apostates and, consequently, Iranians as enemies. Iranian troops and Shia militia have successfully fought ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.
ISIS’s claim also included what it said was video of the attack on parliament. The image from the video showed a person with a weapons, as well as a body. It is not clear if the video is authentic.