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Deadly twin attacks hit Iranian parliament, Ayatollah’s shrine

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed a deadly pair of attacks Wednesday on Iran’s parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It marks the first attack in Iran claimed by the extremist group, which is at war with Iranian-backed forces in Syria and Iraq. In a message posted through its Aamaq News Agency, ISIS claimed its fighters were behind the assaults. An Iranian state-run news website said 12 people were killed and 42 were wounded.

Mizan Online, which is affiliated with the judiciary, attributed the death toll from Wednesday’s attacks to Pirhossein Kolivand, the head of Iran’s emergency department. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, in a statement, placed blame for the attacks on Saudi Arabia.

“This terrorist attack happened only a week after the meeting between the U.S. president [Donald Trump] and the [Saudi] backward leaders who support terrorists. The fact that Islamic State has claimed responsibility proves that they were involved in the brutal attack,” said the statement, published by Iranian media. The attacks were the first claimed by the hardline Sunni Muslim militant group in the tightly controlled Shia Muslim Iran. ISIS, which often claims attacks around the world, even when links to the group cannot be confirmed and appear dubious, said five people perpetrated the attack.

Deadly Twin Attacks Hit Iranian Parliament, Ayatollah's Shrine

Women are seen inside the parliament during an attack in central Tehran, Iran on Wednesday. (TIMA via Reuters)

The unusual attacks in Iran prompted the Interior Ministry to call for an urgent security meeting, according to IRNA. Officials urged people to avoid using public transportation until further notice. Iran President Hassan Rouhani struck a defiant tone in a statement.

“Today’s terrorist attacks in Tehran will make the Islamic Republic of Iran more determined in the fight against regional terrorism, extremism and violence,” Rouhani said in a statement published on the ISNA news agency. “We will prove once again that we will crush the enemies’ plots with more unity and more strength.”

The attacks began midmorning when assailants armed with Kalashnikov rifles stormed the parliament building. One of the attackers later blew himself up inside, where a session had been in progress, according to a statement carried by Iran’s state TV. The siege lasted until mid-afternoon. Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Hossein Zolfaghari told Iran’s state TV the apparently male attackers wore women’s attire.

Deadly Twin Attacks Hit Iranian Parliament, Ayatollah's Shrine

A boy is evacuated during an attack on the Iranian parliament in Tehran. (Omid Vahabzadeh/Tima via Reuters)

An Associated Press reporter saw several police snipers on the rooftops of buildings around the parliament. Shops in the area were shuttered, and gunfire could be heard. Witnesses said the attackers were shooting from the fourth floor of the parliament building down at people in the streets below.

“I was passing by one of the streets. I thought that children were playing with fireworks, but I realized people are hiding and lying down on the streets,” Ebrahim Ghanimi, who was around the parliament building when the assailants stormed in, told The Associated Press. “With the help of a taxi driver, I reached a nearby alley.”

An Associated Press reporter saw security forces, some uniformed and others in plainclothes, around the large and ornate shrine. Police helicopters circled over the parliament building. The semi-official ISNA news agency said all entrance and exit gates at parliament were closed and that lawmakers and reporters were ordered to remain in place inside the chamber.

Deadly Twin Attacks Hit Iranian Parliament, Ayatollah's Shrine

Members of Iranian forces take position during an attack on the Iranian parliament in central Tehran, Iran, on Wednesday. (Omid Vahabzadeh/Tima via Reuters)

Soon after the parliament attack, a suicide bomber and other assailants targeted the shrine located just outside the capital, Tehran, according to the official state broadcaster. It said a security guard was killed and that one of the attackers was killed by security guards. A woman was also arrested. In addition to being lethal, the attack on the shrine of Khomeini is symbolically stunning. As Iran’s first Supreme Leader, Khomeini is a towering figure in the country and was its revolutionary leader in the 1979 ouster of the shah.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered his condolences after the attacks and confirmed Moscow’s willingness to aid Iran.

Germany, Syria and Pakistan were among the nations condemning the attack.

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