Iran: several dead in suicide attacks on parliament and shrine in Tehran

Gunmen and suicide bombers have carried out apparently coordinated attacks on Iran’s parliament and the tomb of revolutionary founder Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran, killing a number of people.

Four gunmen burst into Tehran’s parliament complex with rifles and a pistol, and one of the attackers blew himself up on the fourth floor, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported, putting the death toll at three.

Tasnim news agency said unconfirmed sources on the ground were reporting that seven people including a guard had been killed. There were further, unconfirmed reports that a number of MPs had been taken hostage.

It is unclear how the attackers got past security checkpoints to entered the parliament building. Police helicopters were circling over the building, entrance and exit gates were closed, and mobile phone lines from inside were disconnected.

Reporters inside the chamber, where a session had been in progress, were ordered to remain there.

Witnesses said the attackers were shooting from the fourth floor of the parliament building down at people in the streets below.

Ebrahim Ghanimi, who was passing by the building when it was attacked, told the Associated Press: “I thought that children were playing with fireworks, but I realised people were hiding and lying down on the streets.”

About half an hour after the initial attack at parliament, three to four people entered the western entrance of Khomeini’s tomb complex and opened fire, before one of the attackers detonated a suicide belt. A security guard and a gardner were reportedly killed, and at least four people injured.

The ILNA agency said security forces were dismantling a bomb at the mausoleum, which is in southern Tehran, about 12 miles from the parliament building.

Iran’s intelligence ministry said it had foiled a third plot and asked people to avoid public transport. State broadcaster Irib quoted the ministry as saying: “Members of a third group were arrested before being able to carry out any attack.”

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks on its Amaq news agency.

Shia Iran has been singled out as a target by Sunni jihadis, including Isis, but has largely escaped attacks within its urban centres. Iran provides ground forces to fight Isis and other rebel groups in Syria and Iraq.

Isis published a rare video in Persian in March, warning that it “will conquer Iran and restore it to the Sunni Muslim nation as it was before”. The group and other extremists consider Shias to be apostates, and the video accuses Iranians of persecuting Sunnis over the centuries.

Militant groups are also known to operate in Iran’s south-eastern Sistan-Baluchistan province, which borders Pakistan and has a large Sunni community.

Jaish-ul Adl (Army of Justice), which Tehran accuses of links with Al-Qaida, has carried out several armed attacks inside Iranian territory in recent years.

Khomeini launched the Islamic revolution in 1979 and was Iran’s leader for 10 years.