Gunmen killed at least 25 people and wounded 60 on Saturday in an attack on a military parade in a restive Iranian province that is home to most of the country’s Arab minority, state media said.
The Islamic Republic News Agency reported the casualty figures at the parade in Ahvaz in southwestern Iran, and added that, with many of the wounded in critical condition, the death toll was expected to rise.
The dead and injured were a mix of members of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and civilian onlookers, semiofficial news agencies reported. They included families that had gathered to watch the annual military parade.
The reports said that there were four gunmen wearing military uniforms and that security forces had killed two and captured the other two.
Some officials blamed Arab separatists for the assault, according to the news reports. State television described the attackers as “takfiri,” a term often used to describe Islamic State fighters. Both the Islamic State and a separatist group, Al Ahwaz, claimed responsibility.
The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, wrote on Twitter that “terrorists recruited, trained, armed & paid by a foreign regime” were responsible. “Iran holds regional terror sponsors and their US masters accountable,” he said.
An Iranian general told the Islamic Republic News Agency that the gunmen had been trained by two Persian Gulf countries, but he did not name them. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are rivals with Iran for power and influence across the Middle East.
Videos and photographs posted online reportedly showed the attack and its aftermath — civilians and soldiers dropping to the pavement, shouting and running for cover as gunfire crackled in the background, and later carrying away wounded and bleeding survivors, including children.
Additional footage that originally aired on Iran’s state-run IRIB news channel showed the moment that the gunfire began. In the clip, uniformed soldiers were marching in tandem and journalists were observing the parade when the gunfire was heard. Those in the parade looked behind them before they frantically began to duck and run for cover in a chaotic scramble to escape.
Some reports said the gunmen had tried and failed to reach the reviewing stand set up on a wide boulevard, where military commanders were watching the parade.
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SOURCE: New York Times, Richard Pérez-Peña