Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Iranian parliament and the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran on Wednesday, killing at least 12 people in a twin assault which Iran’s Revolutionary Guards blamed on regional rival Saudi Arabia.
Islamic State claimed responsibility and released a video purporting to show gunmen inside the parliament building.
They were the first claimed by the hardline Sunni Muslim militant group inside in the tightly controlled Shi’ite Muslim country. Islamic State has regularly threatened Iran, one of the powers leading the fight against the militants’ forces in neighboring Iraq and, beyond that, Syria.
The powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps accused Saudi Arabia of being behind the action, a rare such incident in Iran.
“This terrorist attack happened only a week after the meeting between the U.S. president (Donald Trump) and the (Saudi) backward leaders who support terrorists. The fact that Islamic State has claimed responsibility proves that they were involved in the brutal attack,” a Guards statement said.
Saudi Foreign Minister del Al-Jubeir, speaking in Berlin, said he did not know was responsible and there was no evidence Saudi extremists were involved.
The attacks could also exacerbate tensions in Iran between newly re-elected President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist, and his rivals among hardline clerics and the Revolutionary Guards.
Attackers dressed as women burst through parliament’s main entrance in central Tehran, deputy interior minister Mohammad Hossein Zolfaghari said, according to the Tasnim news agency.
One of them detonated a suicide vest in the parliament, he said. About five hours after the first reports, Iranian media said four people who had attacked parliament were dead and the incident was over.
At least 12 people were killed by the attackers, the head of Iran’s emergency department, Pir-Hossein Kolivand, was quoted as saying by state broadcaster IRIB. Some 43 people were wounded.
“I was inside the parliament when shooting happened. Everyone was shocked and scared. I saw two men shooting randomly,” said one journalist at the scene.
Soon after the assault on parliament, another bomber detonated a suicide vest near the shrine of the Islamic Republic’s revered founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, a few kilometers south of the city, Zolfaghari said.
A second attacker was shot dead, he said. The shrine is a main destination for tourists and religious pilgrims.
“The terrorists had explosives strapped to them and suddenly entered the shrine and started to shoot around,” said the shrine’s overseeer, Mohammadali Ansari.
The Intelligence Ministry said security forces had arrested another “terrorist team” planning a third attack.
“I was shopping and suddenly heard shooting,” said housewife Maryam Saghari, 36, who lives near parliament. “People started to run away from the area. I was very scared. I don’t want to live in fear,” she told Reuters by telephone.
Television footage showed police helicopters circling over the parliament building, with snipers on its rooftop.