Iran boosts pa­trols af­ter at­tack

Death toll goes up to 17 in twin as­saults by Is­lamic State. Of­fi­cials fault Saudi Ara­bia.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Ramin Mostaghim and Molly Hen­nessy-Fiske molly.hen­nessy-fiske @la­times.com Spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Mostaghim re­ported from Tehran and Times staff writer Hen­nessy-Fiske from Beirut.

TEHRAN — Po­lice in­creased pa­trols in the streets and sub­way sta­tions of Tehran on Thurs­day, a day af­ter a pair of Is­lamic State at­tacks on the par­lia­ment and the tomb of Iran’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary leader.

The In­tel­li­gence Min­istry con­firmed that at least five of the eight male at­tack­ers had fought for Is­lamic State.

Of­fi­cials also an­nounced that the death toll had in­creased to 17, not in­clud­ing the at­tack­ers. An ad­di­tional 43 peo­ple were wounded in the at­tacks.

Many of the in­jured re­mained in in­ten­sive care at Cina Hos­pi­tal in the cap­i­tal on Thurs­day. Sev­eral law­mak­ers vis­ited the in­jured, in­clud­ing Al­laed­din Borou­jerdi, who heads par­lia­ment’s na­tional se­cu­rity and for­eign pol­icy com­mis­sion.

Among those shot in the at­tack and still hos­pi­tal­ized Thurs­day was a for­mer pres­i­den­tial body­guard.

Ali Ak­bar, 34, had sur­vived other at­tacks that killed fel­low body­guards while trav­el­ing over­seas with then-Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad, ac­cord­ing to a rel­a­tive who re­quested anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to speak to the news me­dia. The at­tack on par­lia­ment left Ak­bar with shrap­nel in his neck and a bul­let lodged in his ab­domen, his rel­a­tive said.

Ak­bar was head­ing home Wed­nes­day and had stopped at a bank to guar­an­tee a loan for a friend when he heard the at­tack at par­lia­ment and rushed over to help.

“He heard the shoot­ing, went to the west gate of par­lia­ment, showed his card and was given a gun,” the rel­a­tive said Ak­bar later told him. “He went to the third floor where the hostage tak­ers had dozens of hostages and he started shoot­ing at one of the ter­ror­ists, who was a tall, broad-shoul­dered [man] dressed in black, and gunned him down. But the other one killed sev­eral hostages: women, staff of the par­lia­men­tary of­fices.”

The at­tack­ers ap­peared to be Arab, Al­ge­rian and Tu­nisian, not Ira­nian, ac­cord­ing to the rel­a­tive.

The rel­a­tive said Ak­bar “told me in the ICU, ‘I could not re­sist fight­ing the ter­ror­ists, who were killing com­mon peo­ple and staff in the light of day.’ ”

All of the at­tack­ers were killed: four at par­lia­ment and four at the tomb of Ay­a­tol­lah Ruhol­lah Khome­ini, of­fi­cials said. One of them was iden­ti­fied as Saryas Sadeghi, an Is­lamic State re­cruiter on the west­ern bor­der known to au­thor­i­ties for the last three years, ac­cord­ing to state-run Fars news agency.

Funer­als for vic­tims of the at­tacks are ex­pected to be held Fri­day. A pro­ces­sion is sched­uled to start at 10 a.m. in par­lia­ment for guards killed there, with par­lia­ment Speaker Ali Lar­i­jani ad­dress­ing the crowd, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial Is­lamic Repub­lic News Agency

The rest of the funer­als are ex­pected to be held later in the day, dur­ing Fri­day pray­ers, when coffins wrapped in Ira­nian flags will be taken to the pub­lic ceme­tery in south Tehran, where they will be buried near de­fend­ers of a shrine that was at­tacked, lo­cal me­dia re­ported.

Deputy In­te­rior Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Hos­sein Zolfaghari told state TV that “law en­force­ment ac­tiv­i­ties may in­crease” in the af­ter­math of the at­tacks. He said au­thor­i­ties are fo­cused on in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing.

Po­lice said half a dozen sus­pects were held in con­nec­tion with the at­tacks. Reza Seifol­lahi, a mem­ber of the Supreme Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, was quoted by Ira­nian me­dia as say­ing the at­tack­ers were Ira­nian na­tion­als. At least one wit­ness re­ported hear­ing an at­tacker speak Per­sian, but video posted on­line that ap­pears to have been recorded by the at­tack­ers shows them speak­ing Ara­bic.

The as­sailants, armed with Kalash­nikov ri­fles and ex­plo­sives, at­tacked the par­lia­ment com­plex while law­mak­ers were at work, wit­nesses said. The siege lasted sev­eral hours. Six­teen peo­ple were killed, and one of the at­tack­ers blew him­self up in­side the com­plex, ac­cord­ing to state tele­vi­sion.

At the same time, gun­men and sui­cide bombers at­tacked Khome­ini’s mau­soleum on Tehran’s south side, killing a se­cu­rity guard, ac­cord­ing to state tele­vi­sion.

Is­lamic State’s me­dia arm quickly claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for both at­tacks, the first in re­cent mem­ory by the mil­i­tants in Iran. Ira­nian forces are fight­ing the Sunni Mus­lim ex­trem­ists in Iraq and Syria, and law­mak­ers have ar­gued they’re do­ing so to pre­vent ter­ror­ist at­tacks at home.

The at­tacks also came at a tense time in the Mid­dle East: Sunni Arab states, led by Saudi Ara­bia and backed by the U.S., have aligned against Iran’s Shi­ite Mus­lim lead­ers.

Pres­i­dent Trump’s state­ment con­demn­ing the at­tacks also sug­gested that Iran had it com­ing. The United States con­sid­ers Iran to be a state spon­sor of ter­ror­ism.

“We grieve and pray for the in­no­cent vic­tims of the ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Iran, and for the Ira­nian peo­ple, who are go­ing through such chal­leng­ing times,” the state­ment said. “We un­der­score that states that spon­sor ter­ror­ism risk fall­ing vic­tim to the evil they pro­mote.”

Ira­ni­ans an­gered by the state­ment took to so­cial me­dia to vent, re­call­ing sym­pa­thetic vig­ils held in Tehran af­ter the Sept. 11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks. Ira­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif tweeted that Trump’s state­ment was “re­pug­nant.”

“Ira­nian peo­ple re­ject such U.S. claims of friend­ship,” Zarif tweeted.

Iran’s Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard in­di­rectly blamed Saudi Ara­bia for the at­tacks in a state­ment is­sued late Wed­nes­day that also noted the “spilled blood of the in­no­cent will not re­main un­avenged.”

Oth­ers also blamed the king­dom.

Khoda Karam Go­maraj was at Cina Hos­pi­tal await­ing news about a friend in­jured in the at­tack.

“The ter­ror­ists were on the pay­roll of Saudi Ara­bia,” he in­sisted.

Atta Kenare AFP/Getty Im­ages

A BILL­BOARD de­pict­ing Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, left, and the late Ay­a­tol­lah Ruhol­lah Khome­ini pro­vides a back­drop for pedes­tri­ans in Tehran. Khome­ini’s tomb was the site of a ter­ror­ist at­tack.

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