Iran says large network arrested over military parade attack as thousands mourn victims

A soldier running past injured comrades lying on the ground at the attack on a military parade in Ahvaz, Iran, on Sept 22, 2018.

LONDON (REUTERS) - Iran's intelligence minister said on Monday (Sept 24) that a "large" network of suspects have 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.

Last Saturday's 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," Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi was quoted as saying by the judiciary's news agency Mizan, on the sideline of the funeral of the victims in Ahvaz.

Thousands of people packed the streets in the south-western city of Ahvaz on Monday to mourn the victims of the attack.

Iran declared Monday a national day of mourning. Public offices, banks, schools and universities were closed in Khuzestan province.

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.

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 guerrilla-style attack, inshallah (God willing)."

Ahvaz National Resistance, an Iranian ethnic Arab opposition movement which seeks a separate state in oil-rich Khuzestan province, 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. But it is unlikely the IRGC will strike any of these foes directly.

The Guards 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 attack.

They are also likely to enforce a tight security policy in Khuzestan province, arresting any perceived domestic opponents, including civil rights activists.

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