TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Gunmen attacked an annual Iranian military parade Saturday in the country’s oil-rich southwest, killing at least eight members of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guard and wounding 20 others, local media reported.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the assault in Ahvaz, which saw gunfire spray into a crowd of marching Guardsmen, bystanders and government officials watching from a nearby riser. However, Iran faced a bloody assault last year from the Islamic State group and Arab separatists in the region have attacked oil pipelines there in the past.
State television aired footage of the aftermath of the assault on Ahvaz’s Quds, or Jerusalem, Boulevard. The images included paramedics trying to help one person in military fatigues as other armed security personnel shouted at each other. The semi-official ISNA news agency published photographs of the attack’s aftermath, with bloodied troops in dress uniforms helping each other walk away.
A local news agency in Khuzestan province, of which Ahvaz is the capital, aired grainy mobile phone footage showing parade goers fleeing as soldiers lay flat on the ground. Gunfire rang out in the background.
“Security forces have restored security in the area but the parade has totally been disrupted,” a reporter on the scene for Iranian state television said by phone in a live broadcast. “People have been killed but we have no figures yet.”
Reports of how the attack unfolded remained unclear immediately afterward. The state TV reporter said the gunfire came from a park behind a riser. The semi-official Fars news agency, which is close to the Guard, said two gunmen on a motorcycle wearing khaki uniforms carried out the attack.
The state-run IRNA news agency said 20 people had been wounded. The semi-official Tasnim news agency said at least eight member of the Guard had been killed.
Who carried out the assault also remained in question. State television immediately described the assailants as “Takfiri gunmen,” a term previously used to describe the Islamic State group. Iran has been deeply involved in the fight against IS in Iraq and has aided embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad in his country’s long war.
Meanwhile, Guard spokesman Gen. Ramazan Sharif told ISNA that an Arab separatist group carried out the attack, without elaborating. However, those groups in the past previously have only attacked unguarded oil pipelines at night.
Saturday’s attack comes after a coordinated June 7, 2017 Islamic State group assault on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran. At least 18 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in an attack that saw gunmen carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles and.
Khomeini led the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah to become Iran’s first supreme leader until his death in 1989. The assault shocked Tehran, which largely has avoided militant attacks in the decades after the tumult surrounding the Islamic Revolution.
Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.