DUBAI, Oct 27 (Reuters) – Iran’s supreme leader vowed on Thursday to retaliate against those who threaten the country’s security after the massacre of Shiite pilgrims, an attack claimed by Islamic State that threatens to spark tensions in center of widespread government protests.
In a speech read on state TV, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said “the attackers will be punished” and called on Iranians to be united.
“We all have a duty to deal with his enemies and his traitors or ignorant agents,” Khamenei said a day after the attack killed 15 people.
Khamenei’s call for unity means that it is the government loyalists and not the protesters that the authorities have seen for nearly six weeks as a threat to national security.
Iran’s clerical leadership has faced nationwide protests since the death by police of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, on September 16.
Iranians have called for the death of Khamenei and the end of the Islamic Republic during the protests, which have become one of the strongest challenges to the cleric since the 1979 revolution, drawing many Iranians to the streets.
Iranian officials said they arrested the 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 Islamic militants such as Islamic State.
A senior official said the suspected attacker was in critical condition after being shot by police.
“The temple terrorist is in a critical condition… and we have not been able to interrogate him,” said regional deputy governor Easmail Mohebipour, reported by Tasnim news agency.
CCTV footage broadcast on state TV on Thursday showed the attacker entering the temple after hiding an assault rifle in a bag and running away as worshipers tried to escape and hide in the street .
Islamic State, which has long posed security threats across the Middle East, has claimed past violence in Iran, including deadly twin attacks in 2017 that targeted the parliament building and the tomb of the Islamic Republic’s founder. , Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Since the peak of its power, when it controlled millions of people in the Middle East and terrorized the world with deadly bombs, the Islamic State has gone into the shadows.
Iran often accuses the West and its regional rivals Israel and Saudi Arabia of instigating the attack. Saudi Arabia denies this and Israel often refuses to comment on its actions against the Islamic Republic.
The killing of Shiites on Wednesday came on the same day that Iranian security forces and protesters were struggling to mark 40 days since Amini’s death.
Human rights groups in Iran said there were unconfirmed reports that some members of Amini’s family were in prison. Reuters could not verify these reports. Reuters tried to reach Amini’s father and brother.
The authorities, who have accused the United States and other Western countries of fueling what they called “the chaos”, have not released a death toll, but state media have said around 30 security personnel.
The HRANA news agency said in a press release that at least 252 protesters had died in the clashes, including 36 children.
He said 30 security forces had died and more than 13,800 people had been arrested as of Wednesday in protests in 122 cities and some 109 universities.
Statement by Dubai Press; Written by Michael Georgy; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Nick Macfie
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