Foreign diplomats summoned in Iran after deadly militant attack on parade
Iran has summoned diplomats from Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands over allegedly harbouring members of a terrorist group that launched an attack on a military parade in the country's south-west.
The country's Foreign Ministry also criticised Britain over a Saudi-linked, Farsi-language satellite channel immediately airing an interview with an Ahvazi separatist claiming responsibility.
Saturday's attack in Ahvaz killed at least 25 people and wounded over 60 in the deadliest terror atrocity to strike the country in nearly a decade.
Women and children scattered along with the Revolutionary Guard soldiers as heavy gunfire rang out Saturday at the parade and the chaos captured live on state television.
The region's Arab separatists, once only known for nighttime attacks on unguarded oil pipelines, claimed responsibility for the brazen assault and Iranian officials appeared to believe the claim.
Iran has blamed its Mideast arch-rival, the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for funding Arab separatists' activity.
State media in Saudi Arabia did not immediately acknowledge the attack, though a Saudi-linked, Farsi-language satellite channel based in the United Kingdom immediately carried an interview with an Ahvazi activist claiming Saturday's attack.
Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran's ambassador to the UK, called the channel's decision a "heinous act" in a post on Twitter and said his country would file a complaint with British authorities over the broadcast.
On Sunday a Foreign Ministry statement quoting spokesman Bahram Qasemi similarly criticised Britain and said Danish and Dutch diplomats were told Iran "already warned" their governments about harbouring Arab separatists.
Meanwhile Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed regional countries and their "US masters" for funding and arming the separatists, issuing a stark warning as regional tensions remain high in the wake of the US withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal.
The attack came as rows of Revolutionary Guardsmen marched down Ahvaz's Quds, or Jerusalem, Boulevard.
It was one of many around the country marking the start of Iran's long 1980s war with Iraq, commemorations known as the "Sacred Defence Week".
Journalists and onlookers turned to look toward the first shots, then the rows of marchers broke as soldiers and civilians sought cover under sustained gunfire.
Iranian soldiers used their bodies at time to shield civilians in the melee, with one Guardsman in full dress uniform and sash carrying away a bloodied boy.
In the aftermath, paramedics tended to the wounded as soldiers, some bloodied, helped their comrades to ambulances.
At least eight of the dead served in the Revolutionary Guard, an elite paramilitary unit that answers only to Iran's supreme leader, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
State TV hours later reported that all four gunmen had been killed, with three dying during the attack and one later succumbing to his wounds at a hospital.
President Hassan Rouhani ordered Iran's Intelligence Ministry to immediately investigate the attack.
Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the attack as exposing "the atrocity and viciousness of the enemies of the Iranian nation".
Tensions have been on the rise between Iran and the US since Donald Trump's administration in May pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran and re-imposed sanctions that were eased under the deal.
It also has steadily ramped up pressure on Iran to try to get it to stop what Washington calls "malign activities" in the region.
Despite that, the US government strongly condemned the attack and expressed its sympathy, saying that "the United States condemns all acts of terrorism and the loss of any innocent lives".
Saturday's attack comes after a coordinated June 7, 2017 Islamic State group assault on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution. At least 18 people were killed and more than 50 wounded.
That assault shocked Tehran, which largely has avoided militant attacks in the decades after the tumult surrounding the revolution.
In the last decade, mass-casualty militant attacks have been incredibly rare. In 2009, more than 40 people, including six Guard commanders, were killed in a suicide attack by Sunni extremists in Iran's Sistan and Baluchistan province.