25 killed in terror attack on Iran military parade

Iran indirectly blamed Saudi Arabia for the terrorist attack on a military parade that killed 25 civilians and troops in the south-western city of Ahvaz in Khuzestan province on Saturday, state-run IRNA said.

Children, women and Revolutionary Guard soldiers were among those killed when four gunmen targeted a parade marking the Iran-Iraq war anniversary in Ahvaz. The attack is significant as Khuzestan was a major battleground of the war in the 1980s.

The death toll could rise as some of the 53 injured were in a critical condition, IRNA said.

A spokesman for the local governor said two of the attackers were shot dead and two were captured while state television said all four gunmen were killed by security forces.

The Sunni militant group al-Ahvazieh, which is linked to Islamic State (IS) and is allegedly backed by Saudi Arabia, claimed responsibility for the Ahvaz attack.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran would hit back at the terrorists recruited, trained, armed and paid by the regional terror sponsor Saudi Arabia and the US.

Speaking at the military parade in capital Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said those who give intelligence and propaganda support to terrorists like al-Ahvazieh must answer for the deadly attack.

Iran is well aware that US-Saudi ties have strengthened after Trump walked away from the historic nuclear deal with Iran. Iran would increase its defensive capabilities day by day despite mounting concerns by the US and its allies, Rouhani said. Iran’s ballistic missiles can reach Israel and US bases in the Middle East.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his shock and sorrow over the loss of lives in the attack on Ahvaz. Such incidents underscore the need to eliminate all forms of terrorism, he said.

Ahvaz is the capital of Khuzestan province with a large Sunni Muslim presence including Arab militants who had attacked its oil pipelines in the past.

Last year, 14 people were killed when IS attacked Iran’s parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran.

Rouhani will be attending the United Nations General Assembly next week. But he is unlikely to meet US President Donald Trump on its sidelines.