LONDON • Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked Iran's Parliament and the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in Teheran, killing at least 12 people in a twin assault at the heart of the Islamic Republic, Iranian officials and media said.
ISIS claimed responsibility for yesterday morning's attack and released a video purporting to show gunmen inside the Parliament building and one body, apparently dead, on the floor.
The attacks were the first claimed by the hardline Sunni Muslim militant Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) inside in the tightly controlled Shi'ite Muslim country. ISIS has regularly threatened Iran, one of the powers leading the fight against the militants' forces in neighbouring Iraq and, beyond that, Syria.
The raids took place at a particularly charged time, after Iran's main regional rival Saudi Arabia and other Sunni powers cut ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of backing Teheran and militant groups.
Attackers dressed as women burst through Parliament's main entrance in central Teheran, Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Hossein Zolfaghari said, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency. One of them detonated a suicide vest in Parliament, he said. About five hours after the first reports, Iranian news agencies said four attackers were dead and the incident was over.
At least 12 people were killed by the attackers, the head of Iran's emergency department, Mr Pir-Hossein Kolivand, was quoted as saying by state broadcaster IRIB.
"I was inside Parliament when the shooting happened," said one journalist who asked not to be named. "Everyone was shocked and scared. I saw two men shooting randomly."
Soon after the assault, another bomber detonated a suicide vest near the shrine of the Republic's revered founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a few kilometres south of the city, Mr Zolfaghari said, according to Tasnim. A second attacker was shot dead, he said.
The Intelligence Ministry said security forces had arrested another "terrorist team" planning a third attack, without giving further details.
"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."
The raids on two of Iran's most highly protected sites will jolt both Iran's recently re-elected President Hassan Rouhani and his political rivals among the hardline clerics, as well as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who are responsible for national security.
Senior government officials have repeatedly described their country as an "island of stability".
In an appeal for unity, Mr Rouhani's chief of staff, Mr Hamid Aboutalebi, took to Twitter to praise the security services. "If these attacks had happened in any other city in Europe or in the world, it would have left many casualties. Applause to the power and firmness of our Revolutionary Guards, basij (paramilitary force), police and security forces," he wrote.
Two senior government officials who asked not to be named said the blasts might prompt a blame game and exacerbate political infighting.
"They (hardliners) are very angry and will use every opportunity to grow in strength to isolate Rouhani," said one of the officials.
The other said the attacks, and speculation over who backed them, would push Iran towards "a harsher regional policy".
Attacks are rare in Teheran and other major cities though two Sunni militant groups, Jaish al-Adl and Jundallah, have been waging a deadly insurgency, mostly in more remote areas, for almost a decade.
The video released by ISIS included an audio track of a man saying: "Oh God, thank you. Do you think we will leave? No! We will remain, God willing."