The authorities in Iran have confirmed that at least 12 people were killed after terrorists attacked the Iranian parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran on Wednesday morning, killing “at least” 12 people, according to the Guardian. Security forces, however, reportedly foiled a third attack that was also targeted at the tomb of the late Iranian revolutionary leader.
Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the attacks through a statement circulated on social media by its Amaq new agency. ISIS has also released a graphic video of the attack taken inside the parliament building (see video below).
According to Iranian state-run TV and news agency reports, four gunmen armed with assault rifles burst into the Iranian parliament building on Wednesday morning. The attack against the parliament building was coordinated with a separate attack targeted at the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in southern Tehran.
A lawmaker, Elias Hazarati, told the Iranian state television that he saw three gunmen, one armed with a pistol and two armed with AK-47 assault rifles, storming the parliament building, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Police officials later told the IRNA state news agency that they stopped another attacker from detonating a suicide belt in the parliament building.
Although initial reports said that only one security guard died and 12 other people were injured in the attack on the parliament building, the semi-official ISNA news agency later put the death toll at three. Quoting sources on the ground, Tasnim news agency reported that seven people, including a guard, were killed.
The authorities eventually confirmed that “at least” 12 people were killed and about 40 injured, according to the BBC. However, Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian parliament, tried to downplay the seriousness of the incident.
“This is a minor issue but reveals that the terrorists pursue troublemaking,” he told the IRNA state news agency, according to NY Daily News. “Iran is particularly the active and effective hub of fighting against terrorism and they want to damage this trend.”
ISNA had earlier reported that four people, including lawmakers, were taken hostage on the upper floors of the building. A member of parliament, Seyyed Hossein Naqavi-Hosseini, said that three armed men entered the parliament building, and a hostage situation appeared to have developed after some lawmakers were held in their offices.
But it was later confirmed that security forces had killed all four gunmen.
A group of gunmen also attacked the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, which is located about 12 miles from the parliament building in south Tehran. The attack reportedly occurred about half an hour after the attack on the parliament building. Four armed men forced their way into the complex through the western gate and opened fire, killing a security guard and a gardener, and injuring four other people.
One of the attackers reportedly detonated a suicide vest as another was shot and killed by security forces. Some sources claimed that the suicide bomber was a woman. An image that emerged on Iranian media claimed to show the moment that the suicide belt was detonated. Security forces dismantled another bomb at the mausoleum, reports claimed.
The authorities later announced that they had foiled a third attack by “terrorists” and warned people to avoid using public transport.
“Members of a third group were arrested before being able to carry out any attack.”
The Iranian authorities would consider the attack on the shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini of great symbolic significance. The shrine is considered one of the most sacred spots in the country. Ayatollah Khomeini was Iran’s first supreme leader who led the 1979 revolution that ousted the Shah and founded the Islamic Republic. He was the leader of Iran for 10 years after the revolution.
The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attacks through a statement released on social media by its news agency, Amaq.
“Fighters from Islamic state attacked Khomeini’s shrine and the Iranian parliament in Tehran.”
It was unclear how the gunmen who attacked the parliament building got past security checkpoints. But immediately after the initial attack, security forces ordered people inside the building, including lawmakers and reporters, to remain in their positions while members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and police officers tried to secure the building.
Mobile phone lines were immediately disconnected, entrance and exit gates shut, and helicopters were seen circling the building moments after the initial attack. Witnesses said that the gunmen fired several shots from the fourth floor of the building at people in the streets below as police snipers took strategic positions on the rooftops.
Gunshots could be heard in several videos uploaded online by eyewitnesses as security forces tried to flush out the assailants. A photo emerged showing security officials standing in front of the parliament building to receive a child who was being lowered out of a first-floor window. Another image showed an armed man looking out of a window. It was at first unclear who the armed man was. Some Iranian media reports said he was an attacker, but the state TV later confirmed that he was a police officer.
“I thought that children were playing with fireworks, but I realized people are hiding and lying down on the streets,” said Ebrahim Ghanimi, a witness who was passing when the gunmen opened fire inside the build. “With the help of a taxi driver, I reached a nearby alley.”
ISIS and other Sunni extremists consider Iranian Shiites apostates and mortal enemies. Iran provides ground forces and supports groups fighting against ISIS and other Sunni jihadis in Syria and Iraq. This is not the first time that Iran has come under attack, but the latest attack is the first time that a major urban center in Iran has been hit.
The attack comes after ISIS produced a Persian-language video in March, boasting that it would “conquer Iran and restore it to the Sunni Muslim nation as it was before.”
[Featured Image by Ebrahim Noroozi/Getty Images]