Daesh-claimed attacks on Iran’s parliament, shrine kill 12

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TOPSHOT - Iranian policemen evacuate a child from the parliament building in Tehran on June 7, 2017 during an attack on the complex. The Islamic State group claimed its first attacks in Iran as gunmen and suicide bombers killed at least five people in twin assaults on parliament and the tomb of the country's revolutionary founder in Tehran. / AFP / FARS NEWS / OMID VAHABZADEH
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A still image taken from a video released on the internet by the Daesh-affiliated Amaq News Agency on June 7, 2017, purports to show a person lying on floor with blood stain in an office said to be inside Iranian parliament in Tehran. (Social Media website via Reuters TV)
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Police officers control the scene, around of shrine of late Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, after an assault by several attackers in Tehran on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Updated 07 June 2017

Daesh-claimed attacks on Iran’s parliament, shrine kill 12

TEHRAN: The Daesh group claimed responsibility Wednesday for a stunning pair of attacks on Iran’s parliament and the mausoleum of its modern founder, the first such attack claimed by the Sunni extremist group in the Shiite-ruled nation.
The lethal assaults, which killed at least 12 people and shocked the country, brought Iran’s wars in Iraq and Syria to its capital at a time when emboldened Sunni Arab states — led by Saudi Arabia and backed by US President Donald Trump — harden their position on its Shiite leadership.
The attacks drew condemnations and condolences from the governments of Pakistan and from Iran’s close allies in the Russian and Syrian governments.
The attacks began midmorning when assailants, armed with Kalashnikov rifles and explosives, stormed the parliament building. One of the attackers later blew himself up inside, where a session had been in progress, according to Iran’s state TV.
It was an hours-long siege at the legislature that ended with four attackers dead. In images circulating in Iranian media, gunmen were seen holding rifles near the windows of parliament. Another image, carried in the semi-official Fars news agency, showed a toddler being handed off through a first-floor window to safety outside as an armed man looks on.
The Daesh group’s Aamaq news agency released a 24-second video purportedly shot inside the parliament building during the siege. The video, circulated online, shows a bloody, lifeless body of a man lying on the ground next to a desk.
A voice on the video praises God and says in Arabic: “Do you think we will leave? We will remain, God willing.” Another voice repeats the same words. The two appeared to be parroting a slogan used by Daesh spokesman Abu Mohammad Al-Adnani, who was killed in Syria last year.
As the parliament siege was unfolding, gunmen and suicide bombers attacked the shrine of Iran’s revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, which is located just outside Tehran. Khomeini, who died in 1989, is a towering figure in Iran who led the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah and became its first supreme leader.
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani called the attacks a cowardly act and proof that Tehran has made an enemy of militant Islamic groups through its policies and actions in Iraq and Syria.
“Iran is an active and effective pillar in the fight against terrorists and they want to damage it,” he said.
Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Hossein Zolfaghari told Iran’s state TV the apparently male attackers wore women’s attire. The semi-official Tasnim news agency later reported the siege had ended with four of the attackers killed.
Mizan Online, an Iranian state-run news website, said 12 people were killed and 42 wounded in the two attacks. It quoted Pirhossein Kolivand, the head of Iran’s emergency department.
An Associated Press reporter saw several police snipers on the rooftops of buildings around the parliament. Shops in the area were shuttered, and gunfire could be heard. Witnesses said the attackers were shooting from the fourth floor of the parliament building down at people in the streets below.
“I was passing by one of the streets. I thought that children were playing with fireworks, but I realized people are hiding and lying down on the streets,” Ebrahim Ghanimi, who was around the parliament building when the assailants stormed in, told The Associated Press. “With the help of a taxi driver, I reached a nearby alley.”
Police helicopters circled over the parliament building and all mobile phone lines from inside were disconnected. The semi-official ISNA news agency said all entrances and exit gates at parliament were closed and that lawmakers and reporters were ordered to remain in place inside the chamber during the siege.
Soon after the parliament attack, a suicide bomber and other assailants targeted the mausoleum of Khomeini, located just outside the capital, Tehran, according to Iran’s official state broadcaster. It said a security guard was killed and that one of the attackers was killed by security guards. A woman was also arrested.
An Associated Press reporter saw security forces, some uniformed and others in plainclothes, around the large and ornate shrine.
The Daesh group often claims attacks around the world, even when links to the group cannot be confirmed and appear dubious. Iranian security officials have not said who they suspect is behind the attacks, though state media has referred to the attackers as “terrorists.”
The unusual attacks prompted the Interior Ministry to call for an urgent security meeting. Officials at one point urged people to avoid using public transportation until further notice.
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Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writers Nasser Karimi, Mohammad Nasiri, Mahdi Fattahi and Saeed Sarmadi contributed to this report.


Former Lebanese finance minister Mohammed Safadi withdraws candidacy for prime minister

Updated 51 min 34 sec ago

Former Lebanese finance minister Mohammed Safadi withdraws candidacy for prime minister

  • His decision to withdraw throws Lebanon’s push to form a government needed to enact urgent reforms back to square one
  • Mohamad Safadi decided to withdraw following consultations with political parties

BEIRUT: Former Lebanese finance minister Mohammed Safadi withdrew his candidacy to be the next prime minister on Saturday, saying that he saw that it would have been difficult to form a “harmonious” cabinet supported by all parties.
Safadi, 75, emerged as a candidate on Thursday when political sources and Lebanese media said three major parties had agreed to support him for the position.
His decision to withdraw throws Lebanon’s push to form a government needed to enact urgent reforms back to square one in the face of unprecedented protests that prompted prime minister Saad Hariri to resign last month.
Safadi said in a statement that he had decided to withdraw following consultations with political parties and a meeting on Saturday with Hariri.
“It is difficult to form a harmonious government supported by all political sides that could take the immediate salvation steps needed to halt the country’s economic and financial deterioration and respond to the aspirations of people in the street,” the statement said.
Protesters who took to the streets on Saturday denounced Safadi’s potential nomination, saying it ran counter to nationwide calls to oust a political elite they see him as part and parcel of.
In the statement, Safadi thanked President Michel Aoun and Hariri for supporting his candidacy, and said he hoped Hariri would return as premier to form a new government.
Shiite group Hezbollah and its Shiite ally Amal had agreed to back Safadi following a meeting with Hariri late on Thursday, according to Lebanese media and political sources, but no political party had since formally endorsed his candidacy.
The two Shiite groups, along with Aoun, a Maronite Christian, have sought for Hariri to return as premier but have demanded the inclusion of both technocrats and politicians in the new cabinet, while Hariri has insisted on a cabinet composed entirely of specialist ministers.
The process for choosing a new premier requires Aoun to formally consult members of parliament on their choice for prime minister. He must designate whoever gets the most votes.
Lebanon’s prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim, according to its sectarian power-sharing system.