Iran’s top cleric and leader Ayatollah Khamenei has pointed the finger at the West for a terror attack on a military parade that took place early Saturday in the Southwest city of Ahvaz, which left 25 people dead and over 60 wounded.
Khamenei’s condemnation of “plots hatched by US stooges in the region” came simultaneous to Iran summoning the diplomatic envoys of Western countries including the Netherlands, Denmark and Great Britain, for harboring Iranian opposition groups in their countries.
“It is not acceptable that these groups are not listed as terrorist organizations by the European Union as long as they have not carried out a terrorist attack in Europe,” foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by IRNA, per Reuters.
Government officials also indicated the gunmen which unleashed a hail of bullets on men women and children were disguised as Iranian soldiers: “The terrorists disguised as the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and Basiji (volunteer) forces opened fire at the authorities and people from behind the stand during the parade,” the regional Governor of Khuzestan Gholam-Reza Shariati told state media.
Iranian state IRNA news identified that the self-proclaimed “Saudi-affiliated” Al-Ahwaz terrorist group claimed the responsibility for the attack.
Indeed it appears that a group identifying itself as the “Ahwazi Democratic Popular Front” had announced on Twitter some 13 hours before the attack that “Al-Ahvaz will create a challenge for the Iranian occupiers with an attack,” according to a translation of the tweet.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in the aftermath that “US masters” and regional terrorist forces should be held accountable for the bloodshed.
— Nasser Atta (@nasseratta5) September 22, 2018
Meanwhile Iran’s Supreme Leader ranted against Western and US plotting in his Saturday message, according to a translation and paraphrase by PressTV:
The Leader said the “tragic and sorrowful” incident in Ahvaz and the killing of people by mercenary terrorists once again exposed the cruelty of the enemies of the Iranian nation.
These savage mercenaries who open fire on innocent civilians, including women and children, are linked with the same liars who claim to advocate human rights, Ayatollah Khamenei added.
Khamenei then specifically identified US plotting as motivating the attack: “Their crime is the continuation of plots [hatched] by the US-led governments in the region who aim to create insecurity in our dear country.”
But on Saturday night the US State Department issued a rare statement of solidarity with Iranians in the wake of the terror attack: “We stand with the Iranian people against the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism and express our sympathy to them at this terrible time. The United States condemns all acts of terrorism and the loss of any innocent lives,” according to the official statement.
Many prominent Western and Gulf-based media outlets refused to use the word “terrorism” in relation to the attack, which reportedly included children among the casualties.
Major media outlets not using the word “terrorism” to describe an attack on a parade in which children were killed because it happened in Iran. pic.twitter.com/dmuOrsQxWy
— Arash Karami (@thekarami) September 22, 2018
Iran has in the past accused the United States, Saudi Arabia, and European countries for giving support to the MEK and using the opposition group as a proxy force for attacks withing Iran. The controversial Iranian opposition in exile Mujahideen e Khalq (MEK) is considered by Iran and many other countries as a terror organization (and not long ago by the US State Deptartment, though delisted as a terror group under Obama ), but is now given close support by US Congresspersons and Trump admin officials alike.
Essentially a paramilitary cult, the MEK is suspected of conducting assassinations of high level Iranian figures, especially nuclear scientists and engineers for years, likely at the bidding of foreign intelligence services.
Currently, it is unclear exactly how much external support the Al-Ahwaz separatist group, which has claimed responsibility for the terror attack, receives, if any at all — though Tehran is pointing the finger at Saudi Arabia and its allies.