Iran holds mass funerals for victims of military parade attack

Tens of thousands of Iranians took to the streets on Monday for the funerals of those killed in the weekend’s attack on a military parade amid conflicting claims over who was responsible for the shooting. 

Mourners lined the streets of the southwestern city of Ahvaz to pay respects to the 25 people gunned down on Saturday when four armed men opened fire on a military ceremony to commemorate the Iran-Iraq war.    

Among those buried was Mohammad Taha Eghdami, a four-year-old boy, who was the youngest victim of the attack. Eight members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard were also killed in one of the worst attacks suffered by Iran in years. All four gunmen were killed.

The Islamic State (Isil) has claimed responsibility for the shooting but so has an Arab separatist group within Iran, known as the Ahvaz National Resistance. 

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, said on Monday that the attack was carried out by terrorists paid by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Iran’s regional rivals. 

"This cowardly act was done by people who the Americans come to help when they are trapped in Syria and Iraq, and are paid by Saudi Arabia and the UAE," the ayatollah said. 

Isil’s official news agency, Amaq, released a video purporting to show three of the four gunmen shortly before the attack. 

The three men filmed the video in a car using a mobile phone. They appeared to be disguised in Revolutionary Guard uniforms to allow them to infiltrate the parade ground. 

One of the men, speaking in Farsi, vowed to carry out "merciless killings" against the Revolutionary Guard. "With Allah’s will, there will be merciless killings against the enemies of Allah among the Guards and others," he said. 

The other two men spoke in Arabic about carrying out jihad. None of the three men made any specific reference to being members of Isil or any other group in the video. It was not clear from their accents where the men were from. 

Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, a spokesman for the Iranian military, said Saturday that Isil was not behind the attack and instead blamed Israel and the US. 

Other Iranian officials have also blamed foreign powers for the attack. 

Saturday's attack shook IranCredit:
AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi

In 2017, Isil launched a brazen attack on the Iranian parliament and other sites in Tehran. Eighteen people were killed in the attack. Iran and its Shia militia allies have been deeply involved in the fight against Isil in both Iraq and Syria. 

Ahvaz is in the western province of Khuzestan, which neighbours Iraq, and has struggled with Arab separatist movements which want to declare independence from Iran.

Iran summoned the ambassadors of Britain, Denmark, and the Netherlands after the attack and accused them of harbouring Arab separatists in their countries. 

Iranian officials were furious after a London-based, Farsi-language television channel, known as "Iran International" broadcast an interview with a spokesman for the separatist militants immediately after the attack. 

Iran’s embassy said it planned to complain to Ofcom, the UK broadcasting regulator, about the channel.  

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