Twin attacks on Iranian parliament and shrine rock Tehran
Attackers have mounted a simultaneous assault on Iran’s parliament building and the tomb of the republic’s revolutionary founder in Tehran, state media reported.
Gunmen went on a shooting spree in the parliament, where at least one attacker detonated a suicide bomb. At the same time, a gun and bomb attack targeted the Ayatollah Khomeini mausoleum on the southern outskirts of the Iranian capital.
A woman was arrested after the attack at the tomb, the semi-official Fars news agency reports. The agency reported that another attacker has been surrounded by security officers. Two people were injured there.
The attackers were holding a number of hostages inside the highly-fortified parliament building, Press TV reported, as Iranian officials scrambled to establish who was behind the attacks or whether they were coordinated.
Attacks of this nature are extremely rare in Iran, particularly in the highly-controlled capital where tourist and government sites are tightly policed.
Gun ownership is heavily controlled in Iran, raising speculation that the attackers’ guns were smuggled into the country.
Iran’s parliament, also called the Islamic Consultative Assembly or Majlis, has 290 members. It has female members and has representatives for religious minorities including Christians, Zoroastrians and Jews.
It is currently unclear how the attacker or attackers entered the parliament building, which has multiple security checkpoints.
The location of the mausoleum attack is symbolic, targeting the tomb of the Islamic Republic’s founder and first supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He led the revolution that overthrew the Shah in 1979 and was Iran’s leader for 10 years.
The mausoleum is located around 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the parliament.
Such attacks in Iran are rare, but the country — with its largely Shiite population — has been involved in military actions against Sunni terrorist groups such as ISIS, who regard Shiites as apostates.
Last year, Iran’s government said it thwarted “one of the biggest plots” by terror groups targeting Tehran and other major cities during the month of Ramadan. This year’s holy month started almost two weeks ago on May 26.
The last major attack in Iran was in 2010 when a Sunni extremist group carried out a suicide attack against a mosque in Sistan-Baluchistan killing 39 people. Kurdish groups have carried out small-scale attacks against Iranian security forces in the northwest of the country.