Islamic State claims Iran shrine attack

Militant Islamic State (IS) group said on Wednesday it had attacked a Shiite Muslim shrine, killing 15 people, as Tehran struggled with a wave of protests and warned of a forceful response.

A militant ISIS-style group was behind an assault on a revered Shiite Muslim shrine in southern Iran that left at least four people dead and 17 wounded, Iranian officials said. Iran’s state media reported that “takfiri terrorists” were responsible for the attack.

Iran has been a target of previous assaults by the group, including deadly twin bombings in 2017 that targeted Iran’s parliament and the tomb of the country’s first supreme leader, Ruhollah Khomeini.

An Iranian woman died in police custody on Wednesday, and security forces clashed with increasingly strident protesters commemorating the 40-day anniversary. 

State media reported that Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi and President Ebrahim Raisi both blamed the Iran protests for the Shiraz attack.

Iran’s enemies have historically tried to exploit the country’s unity to sow division, Raisi said, noting that the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the attack sought to take revenge through violence and terror.

Security and law enforcement forces will certainly teach the perpetrators a lesson, and this crime will not go unpunished.

An official with the semi-Tasnim news agency said the assailant shot an employee at the entrance to the shrine before his rifle jammed, and that he was then pursued by bystanders.

A police officer said the attacker’s weapon malfunctioned and he then shot worshippers at the mosque.

After the congregational prayer, a witness told state television that a man opened fire on worshippers. Luckily, my child was missed, but my wife was wounded in the back, and I was wounded in the leg and arm.

Video footage showed some of the most violent clashes between security forces and protesters throughout the country on the day of the attack in Shiraz, where Amini was killed.

Since 1979, the Iranian clerical leadership is facing one of the most audacious challenges from the ongoing demonstrations. People from all walks of life have taken to the streets, demanding the abolition of the Islamic Republic and the demise of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

An eyewitness said security forces shot at mourners in the predominantly Kurdish town of Saqez on Wednesday.

Dozens were arrested after riot police shot at mourners who had gathered at Mahsa’s tomb for a memorial ceremony, a witness said. Iranian authorities could not be reached for comment.

Around 10,000 people attended Shahr-e Ray cemetery to pay their last respects to the prominent reformist, ISNA news agency reported. The internet was reportedly shut down after clashes between security forces and mourners.

People packed the streets of many cities, and Tehran’s bazaars were closed down as people chanted ‘Death to Khamenei.’ Videos were posted on social media.

Footage on social media appeared to show members of the Basij militia shooting at protesters in Tehran.

An elite Revolutionary Guards member was killed ‘by rioters’ in the western city of Malayer, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported.

A pro-reform Iranian official said the protests’ spread appeared to have taken authorities by surprise, and that support for the Islamic system is not as widespread as officials claim.

Although some analysts believe that the imminent dawn of a new political order is unlikely, activists said that the path to a new revolution had been cleared and that the wall of fear had fallen.

Dozens of universities have joined the protests, and hundreds of schoolgirls have participated, chanting, ‘Freedom, freedom, freedom,’ despite the severity of the security forces’ crackdowns.

State media and hardline officials have branded protesters ‘hypocrites, monarchists and thugs’.

At least 250 protesters were killed and thousands arrested, according to rights groups.

Image Credit; Blondinrikard Fröberg