Iran nabs 'large' network of suspects over attack

Thousands of people packed the streets of Ahvaz yesterday to mourn the victims of an attack on a military parade in the Iranian city last Saturday. The coffins, wrapped in the flag of the Islamic Republic, were carried through the streets by the mour
Thousands of people packed the streets of Ahvaz yesterday to mourn the victims of an attack on a military parade in the Iranian city last Saturday. The coffins, wrapped in the flag of the Islamic Republic, were carried through the streets by the mourners.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON • Iran's intelligence minister yesterday said a "large" network of suspects has been arrested in connection with last Saturday's attack on a military parade that killed 25 people, including 12 members of the elite Revolutionary Guards.

The assault, one of the worst against the most powerful military force of the Islamic Republic, struck a blow at its security establishment at a time when the United States and its Gulf allies are working to isolate Teheran.

"We will identify all terrorists linked to this attack... A large part of this network has already been arrested," Mr Mahmoud Alavi was quoted as saying by the judiciary's news agency, Mizan, on the sidelines of the funeral of the victims.

Thousands of people packed the streets of Ahvaz yesterday to mourn the victims. The coffins, wrapped in the flag of Iran, were carried by the mourners.

During the attack, four assailants fired on a viewing stand in Ahvaz where Iranian officials had gathered to watch an annual event marking the start of the Islamic Republic's 1980-88 war with Iraq. Soldiers crawled on the street to avoid bullets while women and children fled for their lives.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's Amaq agency posted a video of three men in a vehicle who it said were on their way to carry out the attack. A man wearing a baseball cap emblazoned with what appears to be a Revolutionary Guard logo discussed the impending attack in Farsi in the video.

"We are Muslims, they are kafirs (non-believers)," the man says. He adds: "We will destroy them with a strong and guerilla-style attack, inshallah (God willing)."

Ahvaz National Resistance, an Iranian ethnic Arab opposition movement which seeks a separate state in oil-rich Khuzestan province, has also claimed responsibility for the attack.

Senior commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have said the Ahvaz attack was carried out by militants trained by Gulf states and Israel, and backed by America.

The deputy head of the Revolutionary Guards yesterday warned US and Israeli leaders to expect a "devastating" response.

"You have seen our revenge before... You will see that our response will be crushing and devastating and you will regret what you have done," Brigadier-General Hossein Salami said in a speech before the funeral of the victims.

But it is unlikely the IRGC will strike any of these foes directly.

The IRGC could put on a show of strength by firing missiles at opposition groups operating in Iraq or Syria that may be linked to the militants who staged the Ahvaz attack.

The elite force is also likely to enforce a tight security policy in Khuzestan, arresting any perceived domestic opponents including civil rights activists.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2018, with the headline 'Iran nabs 'large' network of suspects over attack'. Print Edition | Subscribe