Iran's president blames USA after attack on military parade

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a military parade in Tehran

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a military parade in Tehran

The IRNA report, which said the death toll was expected to rise, did not say whether members of Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) were among the fatalities.

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has accused "regional states that are puppets of the US", while a spokesman for the armed forces said the gunmen were trained by two Gulf Arab states with links to the U.S. and Israel.

ISIS and a separatist group with Saudi connections, the Ahvaz National Resistance, both claimed responsibility for the attack, in which attackers disguised as soldiers opened fire at a military parade.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif immediately blamed the attack on regional countries and their "U.S. masters", calling the gunmen "terrorists recruited, trained armed and paid" by foreign powers.

The parade in Ahvaz, a city with a population of more than a million people, was one of many happening nationwide in honor of Sacred Defense Week, marking the 38th anniversary of Iran's 8-year war with Iraq. Speaking on September 23 shortly before leaving Tehran for the UN General Assembly in New York, Rohani said the perpetrators of the attack and their affiliation were "absolutely clear" to Tehran.

Khuzestan, which has a large ethnic Sunni Arab community, was a major battleground of the 1980s war with Iraq and it saw unrest in 2005 and 2011, but has since been largely quiet.

Iranian officials say the attack can be traced back to America and its regional allies.

Three attackers were killed at the scene and the fourth died later of his injuries, said armed forces spokesman Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi.

The attack undermined the Iranian government "on the day it wants to give a message to the world that it is powerful and in control", al-Tostari said.

Iranian officials have blamed "a foreign regime" backed by the United States.

Oman, Kuwait and Qatar issued condemnations of the attack, while Saudi Arabia and Bahrain had yet to react on Sunday.

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Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say over all state matters, said the attack was a continuation of "conspiracies by USA -backed regimes in the region".

On Sunday, Iran's foreign ministry summoned a UAE envoy in protest at "biased statements" made in support of the attack. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed the killings on "regional terror sponsors and their US masters".

However, under the Trump administration, these relations have deteriorated further as the American leader pulled the United States out of a nuclear agreement that had been agreed to with Iran and other nations under his predecessor, President Barack Obama, and moved to reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

"Iran's answer (to this attack) is forthcoming within the framework of law and our national interests", said Rouhani, adding that the United States would regret its "aggressiveness".

No group has claimed responsibility for the incident.

Mostly Shi'ite Muslim Iran is at odds with Western-allied Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia for predominance in the Middle East.

A spokesman for the Revolutionary Guards, however, alleged that the attackers were separatists backed by Saudia Arabia, Iran's regional archrival.

A senior United Arab Emirates (UAE) official denied on Sunday that his country had been involved in the attack.

The incident comes as the Iranian government tries to parry what it sees as a US -led war on its economy after President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions.

The Islamic State group carried out a coordinated assault in June 2017 on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The United States has meanwhile been ramping up pressure on Iran since Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement in May, restoring crippling sanctions and voicing support for anti-government protests fueled by economic woes.

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