Iranian officials have blamed Gulf states and the United States for Saturday’s attack on a military parade that killed 29 people, and accused them of backing the Arab separatist ‘al-Ahvaziya’ armed group, which claimed responsibility for the killings.
President Hassan Rouhani vowed to deliver a “crushing response”, while Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei linked the attack with the United States and its “allies in the region”.
“This crime is a continuation of the plots of the regional states that are puppets of the United States, and their goal is to create insecurity in our dear country,” Khamenei said in a statement.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said “regional terror sponsors” were responsible for the attack, adding he held “their US masters accountable”.
“Terrorists recruited, trained, armed & paid by a foreign regime have attacked Ahvaz,” Zarif said in a tweet, adding: “Iran holds regional terror sponsors and their US masters accountable for such attacks.
While he and other senior Iranian officials have not directly named the states, their comments are believed to be directed at Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Israel, which all have hostile relations with Iran and have promised to counter its influence in the region, including inside the country.
The attack in Ahvaz came as the country marked the anniversary of the start of its 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Four gunmen dressed in military uniform sprayed bullets into a crowd of marching soldiers, bystanders and government officials watching from a nearby stand.
At least 29 people were killed, including women and children who had come to watch the parade.
‘Attackers trained by two Gulf states’
“These terrorists… were trained and organised by two … Gulf countries,” Iranian military spokesman Abolfazl Shekarchi told the official news agency IRNA.