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Death Toll In Tehran Attack Rises; Iranian Official Calls U.S. Response 'Repugnant'

Jun 8, 2017
Originally published on June 8, 2017 2:23 pm

A day after the twin terrorist attacks in Tehran, Iranian state media said the death toll has risen to 17 and Iran's foreign minister denounced the official White House response as "repugnant."

Iran's Intelligence Ministry also identified five extremists who attacked the Parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on Wednesday and confirmed that they had fought for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

Two teams of attackers armed with guns and explosives targeted the Parliament building and the mausoleum in apparently coordinated attacks that occurred within an hour of each other.

Five of the attackers died and, Reuters reports, more than half a dozen suspects have been arrested in connection with the assault — the first major attack Iran has experienced in years.

Iran initially said a dozen victims died; it's unclear whether the toll announced Thursday includes the five attackers. Dozens of people were wounded.

Meanwhile, President Trump's statement on the attack has prompted criticism in Iran. The statement from the White House read in full:

"We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times. We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote."

That second sentence, suggesting Iran bears responsibility for an attack against its civilians, was not well-received, NPR's Peter Kenyon reports. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad-Zarif called it "repugnant" on Twitter and said the Iranian people "reject" the statement.

Other parts of Trump's administration have been striving to moderate that message. NPR's Michele Kelemen notes that the State Department condemned the attack and wrote that "the depravity of terrorism has no place in a peaceful, civilized world."

The United States and several allies in the Middle East have been fighting against the Islamic State. Iran also has been fiercely opposed to the militant group. Iran is a majority-Shiite nation, and the Islamic State is a Sunni group that often targets Shiite Muslims.

Iran has indirectly suggested that Saudi Arabia, its major regional rival and a U.S. ally, played a role in the attack.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards have suggested that the attack was linked to Saudi Arabia. They never named the country directly, but the implication was clear. Their statement, according to a Financial Times translation and annotation, read: "This terrorist act took place a week after a joint meeting between the US president and head of a reactionary regional country [Saudi Arabia] which has been a constant supporter of terrorism. ... The fact ISIS claimed responsibility proves that they [Saudi Arabia] were involved in the brutal attack."

Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi told IRNA on Thursday that it is clear Saudi Arabia supports terrorist groups but it is too soon to say whether it was involved in the Parliament and mausoleum strikes.

Saudi Arabia has denied involvement, Reuters reports.

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