Terrorists Strike In Iran's Capital Tehran With Multiple Attacks
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Now let's work through what's known about an attack in Tehran today. Iran has been labeled a sponsor of terrorism outside its borders, but today it is a target of terrorism, apparently. Attackers struck two targets today, one of them Iran's Parliament building. Let's begin at the beginning. Bloomberg News reporter Golnar Motevalli is in Tehran.
GOLNAR MOTEVALLI: Four attackers entered the building. The deputy interior minister has said that they were dressed as women. And as soon as they entered the vicinity, probably where the security check is, they began shooting randomly. At that point, they became engaged in a firefight with security forces that are ordinarily always deployed.
INSKEEP: Dressed as women, at least according to that one claim. Of course, the looser clothes that women are required to wear would give them an opportunity to conceal weapons. Scott Peterson picks up the story from there. He's a correspondent with The Christian Science Monitor, has traveled many times to Iran. He's in Istanbul. Hi, Scott.
SCOTT PETERSON: Hi, how are you?
INSKEEP: So we just heard the beginning of the attack. What happened next?
PETERSON: Right, well, that standoff actually took - carried on in Parliament for three hours, which is quite a long time. We had, finally, government snipers and revolutionary guard commandos who all took part in trying to take care of these four attackers in Parliament. Simultaneously - and this would have been something else that the security forces would have been dealing with in Iran - is we had a dual suicide attack attempt against the shrine for the founder of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. He's buried just south of Tehran.
Two attackers with - wearing suicide vests managed to make it into the compound there. One of them blew themselves up. And the second one - the second one was shot dead before they were able to explode their vests. So they're - so the Iranians are now coping with a - with the aftermath of a dual attack. And this is, of course, coming after years in which they presented themselves as the most stable nation in the region - in a region collapsing around them or at least facing these kind of attacks and that they had been immune until now.
INSKEEP: Do Iranian authorities feel, or at least say, that they have the situation under control? Are all the attackers dead or in custody?
PETERSON: Yes, all the attackers are dead. Apparently, there have also been some arrests. And apparently, there was also a third cell, which, depending on the timeline that you believe, was either arrested prior to these two attacks or otherwise had been - just within the same kind of timeframe had been arrested. So they - there should be actually a number of clues which - about who is responsible for this, you know, coming out from the interrogations of those people, one presumes.
INSKEEP: I'm thinking about the two buildings that were attacked - one of them, this giant, almost pyramid-like structure, the Parliament building, the other the shrine to Ayatollah Khomeini - huge. I mean, these are immense targets with immense symbolic significance inside Iran.
PETERSON: Precisely. And of course, that's probably the reason why, you know, they were high on the target list. I mean, of course there have been a number of organizations and groups - high on the list, of course, has been the Islamic State, which has wanted to, you know, launch kind of revenge attacks against Iran for a very, very long time. Iran really does have a pretty fastidious and often accurate counter-terrorism actions. And they are often - in fact, practically hardly a week goes by over the last year or two when we haven't had news of some kind of attack like this actually being foiled.
I mean, they're constantly saying that - the Iranians saying that they've captured a cell of militants or, you know, of different kinds who are trying to do an attack. But the very fact that these structures - and especially, you know, not just the Parliament, which obviously is making decisions about, you know, the country's direction, but also the shrine. I mean, these are - that is a very revolutionary target, Iranians would consider it to be - and, of course, of great symbolism to anyone who would want to attack the Islamic Republic.
INSKEEP: Scott, you said that ISIS has wanted to get revenge against Iran for some time. Would you explain why ISIS would want revenge against Iran?
PETERSON: So Iran has been really very actively pushing back against the Islamic State in Iraq in particular, but also, and to a slightly lesser degree, inside Syria. And in fact, I mean, they have - they have been credited with actually preserving Baghdad from ISIS attack back in June of 2014, which is when ISIS kind of stormed across from Syria, took control of Mosul, swept down through northern Iraq and was moving toward Baghdad. And the quick work of the Quds force, which is part of the Revolutionary Guard and...
INSKEEP: Iranians, yeah.
PETERSON: ...Its commander, you know, basically is credited by many Iraqis with basically having saved Baghdad at that time. Later on, of course, we had Americans, and we had many other elements of this coalition to fight ISIS. But Iraq has been pushing very hard against ISIS - or Iran has been pushing very hard against ISIS.
INSKEEP: A reminder of the strange bedfellows in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East - Scott, thanks very much.
PETERSON: Thank you.
INSKEEP: Scott Peterson is a reporter for The Christian Science Monitor, a frequent visitor to Iran. And he joined us this morning by Skype, giving us the latest that we know about an attack on two different targets inside Iran's capital, Tehran. ISIS has claimed responsibility. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.