By Muhammad Siddiqui
Iran is promising a “crushing response” after a terrorist attack on Sept. 22 targeting a military parade claimed at least 29 lives and left 70 others wounded, according to Al Jazeera.
The attack took place in Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan, a southwest province of Iran. It holds the largest oil reserves in the country, according to Al Jazeera.
The area is also home to Arab minorities and has been the focal point for ethnic clashes before. In the 1980s, the province became a battleground for the Iran-Iraq War, which the parade on Saturday was intended to commemorate. The event was part of the country’s “Sacred Defense Week,” and was one of many parades across the country, according to The New York Times.
According to The New York Times and NPR, among those injured when the militants clashed with security forces were spectators, including a 4-year-old boy, and members of the country’s paramilitary unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp.
The militants responsible for the attack were reportedly dressed to blend in, wearing outfits akin to the actual soldiers in the parade. Iranian armed forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi also stated on Iranian news that the militants had hid their firearms in the area days before the attack, according to Al Jazeera.
Four militants carried out the attack; three were killed in the clashes and one died of his injuries while in custody, according to Al Jazeera.
The exact alliance of the suspects is unknown. While the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has claimed responsibility for the attack, its claim was dismissed by officials, according to The New York Times.
Arab resistance groups in the area are being met with more suspicion. According to CNN, two regional groups, the Patriotic Arab Democratic Movement in Ahwaz and the Arab Struggle for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz, have both been blamed for the attack, despite spokespersons from both groups denying responsibility. A third armed group, al-Ahvaziya, which the Iranian government believes is funded by Saudi Arabia, claimed responsibility.
While many other regional countries have offered their condolences to Iran, Saudi Arabia has yet to issue a similar statement, according to CNN.
The two countries have been vying for influence in the region, and more recently, have been arming opposing sides in conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen in an attempt to spread their influence, according to Al Jazeera.
While Iran also blames the U.S. for the attack, the U.S. issued a statement on the same day as the attack condemning “all acts of terrorism and the loss of any innocent lives,” according to The New York Times.