DUBAI, Oct 27 (Reuters) – Iran’s supreme leader vowed to respond to threats to the country’s security after a massacre of Shiite pilgrims on Thursday.
In a statement read on state television, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the attackers “will definitely be punished” and called on Iranians to unite.
A day after the attack, which killed 15 people, Khamenei said: “We all have a duty to fight the enemy and his traitorous or ignorant agents.
Khamenei’s call for unity is directed at mostly government loyalists, not protesters whose nearly six-week-old movement is viewed by authorities as a threat to national security.
After the killing of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in police custody in September, Iran’s spiritual rulers faced demonstrations across the country. 16.
Iranians have called for Khamenei’s death and an end to the Islamic Republic in what has become one of the most daring calls from the clerical leadership since the 1979 revolution and brought many Iranians to the streets.
Iranian officials said they have arrested the gunman who carried out the attack on the Shah Cheragh shrine in the city of Shiraz. State media blamed “takfiri terrorists” — a label Tehran uses for hardline Sunni Muslim militants like the Islamic State.
A high-ranking official said that the condition of the suspected assailant, who was shot by the police, is serious.
“We haven’t been able to interrogate him yet,” provincial deputy governor Easmail Mohebipour was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
CCTV footage aired on state television on Thursday showed the assailant entering the shrine after hiding a rifle in a bag, shooting worshipers and trying to run and hide in corridors.
Islamic State, once a security threat in the Middle East, has claimed responsibility for previous violence in Iran, including deadly twin attacks in 2017 that targeted the parliament and the mausoleum of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Since the height of its power, the Islamic State has fallen back into the shadows while ruling millions of people in the Middle East and terrorizing the world with deadly bombings and shootings.
Iran often accuses the West and its regional rivals Israel and Saudi Arabia of instigating the attacks. Saudi Arabia denies this and Israel usually refuses to comment on its actions against the Islamic Republic.
Wednesday’s killing of Shiite pilgrims came as Iranian security forces clashed with increasingly violent protesters to mark the 40th anniversary of Amin’s death.
Iranian leaders had hoped the attack on the shrine would divert attention from the unrest, but there is no sign of that happening.
Official news agency IRNA reported that protesters, angered by the “suspicious” death of a demonstrator, broke the windows of banks, the tax office and other public buildings in the northwestern city of Mahabad.
Iranian human rights groups said there were unconfirmed reports that some members of Ami’s family were under house arrest. Reuters could not confirm these reports. Reuters tried to contact Ami’s father and brother.
Authorities, which accuse the United States and other Western countries of fomenting what they call “riots,” have yet to announce their deaths, but state media said about 30 members of the security forces were killed.
The activist news agency HRANA reported that at least 252 protesters, including 36 minors, were killed during the riots.
On Wednesday, 30 employees of the security forces were killed and more than 13,800 people were arrested during protests held in 122 cities and towns and 109 universities.
Report by Dubai Newsroom; Written by Michael Georgy; Edited by Clarence Fernandez and Nick Macfie
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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