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Iran Calls Trump’s Response to Attacks ‘Repugnant’; Toll Rises to 17

The statement did not disclose the nationalities of the five men, though Reza Seifollahi, deputy chief of the Supreme National Security Council, told the independent newspaper Shargh that they were Iranian.

If true, that would be an extraordinary departure — the Islamic State is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, Iran is the world’s largest Shiite Muslim nation, and the Islamic State has fought Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria.

That said, the Islamic State has been stepping up Persian-language propaganda, part of an effort to woo the Sunni minority in Iran. In March, the Islamic State released a video featuring Iranian fighters, in which it called on Sunnis in the country to form cells and carry out attacks on Shiite forces, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which analyzed the video.

Moreover, the 9/11 Commission, which investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, found that Al Qaeda and Iran had a relationship in the early 1990s that “demonstrated that Sunni-Shia divisions did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations.”

As recently as 2012, the Treasury Department in Washington chided Iranians for supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq, a precursor of the Islamic State.

Iran is home to millions of Sunni Muslims, who live mostly in border areas, including in the Kurdish region. Kurds make up roughly 5 percent of the population of around 80 million. Unemployment and underinvestment have made Kurds cynical about the country’s Shiite leadership.

President Hassan Rouhani, who was re-elected last month by a wide margin, had campaigned in favor of greater rights for minorities.

In Khuzestan, an oil-rich province that borders Iraq and that is home to many Arabs, both Sunni and Shiite, a video emerged two weeks ago of men in black carrying weapons and shouting slogans on the streets of Ahvaz, the provincial capital. They were arrested the next day, the Intelligence Ministry said.

A southeastern province, Sistan and Baluchistan, is home to several extremist Sunni groups that have committed bombings, assassinations and attacks on Iranian security forces and officials in recent times. Iran’s intelligence minister, Mahmoud Alavi, said on Thursday that Iran had broken up “a hundred terrorist plots” over the past two years, according to the news site Asr-e Iran. Inmates in Evin prison say they have seen dozens of Sunni extremists in the facility, often Kurds and Baluchis. Several of them have been hanged over the years.

On Thursday, the Iranian government said the five men were “long affiliated with the Wahhabi,” the ultraconservative form of Sunni Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia — but stopped short of directly blaming Saudi Arabia, its rival for supremacy in the region.

In addition to the five men, one female assailant at the mausoleum blew herself up, and another woman was captured and was being interrogated. A handful of other people have also been detained for questioning.

There was a heightened police presence in the streets of Tehran on Thursday, most significantly near the sites of the attacks and on the subways. A deputy interior minister, Mohammad Hossein Zolfaghari, also said that “law enforcement activities may increase.”

The United States responded to the dual assaults on Wednesday with a statement that expressed sympathy for the victims while also taking a swipe at the Iranian leadership.

“We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times,” President Trump said in a statement. “We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.”

That elicited an angry response from Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, who helped negotiate a landmark nuclear deal that Iran, the United States and other countries reached in 2015.

“Repugnant WH statement & Senate sanctions as Iranians counter terror backed by US clients,” Mr. Zarif wrote on Twitter. “Iranian people reject such US claims of friendship.”

The foreign minister also wrote on Twitter: “Terror-sponsoring despots threaten to bring the fight to our homeland. Proxies attack what their masters despise most: the seat of democracy.”

The state-run news agency IRNA said that the death toll in the attacks had risen to 17, citing Dr. Ahmad Shojaei, who leads the country’s forensics center.

Earlier in the day, Pir-Hossein Koulivand, who leads Iran’s Medical Services Organization, said the number of wounded had risen to 52, and that 15 had been discharged from hospitals.

At least six assailants were killed, and five people have been taken into custody. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee in Parliament, said that one of the assailants involved in the attack on the Khomeini shrine was a woman and that she had been arrested by the intelligence forces.

Statements of support from Iran’s allies continued to pour in on Thursday.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq expressed his condolences in a message to Mr. Rouhani of Iran.

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who has received crucial support from Iran during the country’s six-year civil war, spoke by telephone with Mr. Rouhani and affirmed his determination to fight “terrorists and their supporters,” according to a report from Syrian state media. Both Iran and Syria portray the war as a conflict against Western- and Gulf-sponsored terrorism.

The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which serves as a proxy for Iran in Syria and Lebanon, also condemned the attacks, calling them part of an “international, destructive plan” backed by various governments in the region.

Correction: June 8, 2017

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the year of the Sept. 11 attacks. It was 2001, not 2011.

Source: NYT > World

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