Attackers Strike At Multiple Sites In Iran's Capital Tehran
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We are following developments today in Tehran where, according to Iranian news media, there have been two different attacks, one of them on Iran's Parliament which was in session at the time that gunmen approached, and the other on the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini, the man who was known as the founder of Iran's revolution back in 1979. NPR's Alison Meuse is based in Beirut following reports of this. Hi, Alison.
ALISON MEUSE, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.
INSKEEP: Talk us through the facts as best you know them. What happened today in Tehran?
MEUSE: So this morning, there were two separate, almost simultaneous attacks in Tehran. One was targeting the Iranian Parliament, which was in session, and the second targeting the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini. So both very simple - can you hear me?
INSKEEP: Yeah, I can hear you just fine. Let's talk...
INSKEEP: ...Through the Parliament thing first. What happened there?
MEUSE: Excellent. So as we know from Iran's state news agencies, multiple gunmen broke into the Parliament. There may have been a suicide bomber among them who detonated themself. We know that there were definitely casualties. We're hearing at least five people dead between the two attacks, so the Parliament and the mausoleum attack. Those may include suicide bombers. We're still getting reports via state media, and it's still all a bit sketchy.
INSKEEP: And I guess we should mention the Iranian media are describing casualties, people killed. But these are the kinds of figures that are likely to change in a situation like this. Now what about the other attack today?
MEUSE: So the other attack was on the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini who's the founder of the Islamic Republic, so another very symbolic target. We know that there were multiple gunmen, at least one suicide attacker and there were multiple casualties. Again we're not sure the final figure on the number of dead, but it included at least one suicide bomber.
INSKEEP: Alison you've covered ISIS for years. Have they gone after Iran before?
MEUSE: Not inside Iran. ISIS has fronts against Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and in Syria. And in March, ISIS released kind of a rare video in Persian calling for attacks inside Iran by Iran's Sunni minority. But as far as we know, this is the first attack they've been able to carry out on Iranian soil. They have claimed responsibility.
INSKEEP: You've just given us a little texture there which is helpful because you talked about a Sunni minority. It's a Shiite Muslim-dominated country, Shiite Muslim majority, Shiite theocracy, in effect. But there is that Sunni minority, and ISIS has described itself as a primarily Sunni organization. So you have a divide between different branches of Islam there, right?
MEUSE: Indeed. And this is a divide that's been sharpened by the conflicts we see across the region. In Iraq, there is a Shiite majority and Iran is supporting government troops against the Islamic State, which is a Sunni extremist group. Now, Iran would argue and Iraqis would say that their army is a multi-confessional, but ISIS certainly tries to play on the sectarian divide and has urged Iran's Sunni minority to fight the Shiite rulers. Until today, it seems they have not been successful and we still don't know who these attackers were.
INSKEEP: That's a fair point. ISIS has claimed responsibility, but we're waiting to learn more. NPR's Alison Meuse following the attacks in Iran. Alison, thanks very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.