DUBAI, Oct 27 (Reuters) – Iran’s supreme leader vowed on Thursday to retaliate against those who threaten the country’s security following the massacre of Shiite pilgrims, an attack claimed by Islamic State that threatens to inflame tensions amid widespread anti-government protests. .
In a statement read on state television, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the attackers “will surely be punished” and called on Iranians to unite.
“We all have a duty to deal with the enemy and his treacherous or ignorant agents,” Khamenei said a day after the attack killed 15 people.
Khamenei’s call for unity appeared to be aimed primarily at government loyalists and not at protesters whose nearly six-week movement is seen by authorities as a threat to national security.
Iran’s clerical rulers have faced demonstrations across the country since the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, on September 1. sixteen.
Iranians have called for Khamenei’s death and the end of the Islamic Republic during the protests, which have become one of the boldest challenges to the clerical leadership since the 1979 revolution, bringing many Iranians onto the streets.
Iranian authorities said they had arrested a gunman who carried out the attack at 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 senior official said the suspected attacker was in critical condition after being shot by police.
“We haven’t been able to question him yet,” deputy provincial governor Easmail Mohebipour was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
CCTV footage broadcast on state television on Thursday showed the attacker entering the shrine after hiding an assault rifle in a bag and shooting as worshipers tried to flee and hide in corridors.
The Islamic State, which once posed a security threat across the Middle East, has claimed responsibility for previous violence in Iran, including the deadly twin attacks in 2017 that targeted the parliament and the tomb of the Islamic Republic’s founder. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Since the height of its power, when it ruled millions of people in the Middle East and spread fear around the world with deadly bombings and shootings, the Islamic State has once again lurked in the shadows.
Iran often accuses the West and its regional rivals, Israel and Saudi Arabia, of fomenting the attacks. Saudi Arabia denies this and Israel generally refuses to comment on its moves against the Islamic Republic.
Wednesday’s massacre of Shiite pilgrims came on the same day that Iranian security forces clashed with increasingly strident protesters marking 40 days since Amini’s death.
Iranian leaders may have hoped the shrine attack would divert attention from the unrest, but there is no sign that is happening.
The official IRNA news agency said protesters angered by the “suspicious” death of a protester smashed windows of banks, a 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 Amini’s family are under house arrest. Reuters was unable to verify these reports. Reuters tried to contact Amini’s father and brother.
Authorities, who have accused the United States and other Western countries of fomenting what they call “riots,” have not yet declared the death toll, but state media have said some 30 members of the security forces have been killed.
The activist news agency HRANA said in a publication that at least 252 protesters had been killed in the unrest, including 36 minors.
It said 30 members of the security forces were killed and more than 13,800 people had been arrested as of Wednesday in protests in 122 cities and towns and some 109 universities.
Information from the Dubai newsroom; Written by Michael Georgy; Edited by Clarence Fernandez and Nick Macfie
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