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World

State Media In Iran Report Multiple Attacks In Tehran

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The news today underlines the contradictions of the Persian Gulf in the Middle East. Iran, a country sanctioned for its support of terror groups, appears today to be the victim of a terror attack. The Islamic State claims responsibility for two attacks in Tehran, one of which involved gunmen who attacked Iran's Parliament.

Scott Peterson is going to talk us through this. He's a correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor and has traveled many times to Iran. He's in Istanbul right now. Hi, Scott.

SCOTT PETERSON: Hi. Good morning.

INSKEEP: Would you just explain the landscape for us here? The Parliament building in Tehran, what's it like?

PETERSON: Well, the Parliament building is a beautiful - now it's kind of looking like a pyramid. It's a beautifully designed building. It's new just in the last number of years, and it's in kind of central south Tehran. But the whole area there is kind of a Parliamentary complex. So that was the primary attack, and we understand that seven or eight people were killed there. There was another one that took place simultaneously south of Tehran, just on the edges of Tehran, at the shrine of the founder of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

So really the attackers - like I say simultaneous attacks - both of these are targets that are very, very symbolic. And I think will probably be shaking up Iranians quite a bit who have not been used to any of the type of blowback at least in recent years that has been felt elsewhere in the region...

INSKEEP: You mentioned...

PETERSON: ...In Turkey and other countries.

INSKEEP: You mentioned, Scott, that this Parliament building was part of a Parliamentary complex. Isn't that pretty massively secured in there?

PETERSON: It's very secure there. I mean, it's not - you know, it's not that, like, every single block has got checkpoints or things like that. I mean, there is traffic that drives by it in all different directions in the same way that - you know, the same way that - well, the - many, many structures are. But it is quite central, which means that it doesn't have a very large perimeter around it that's easily defendable. So it's not like...

INSKEEP: So based on what you've heard from Iranian media reports, what happened there? A number of gunmen - how many gunmen? What did they do?

PETERSON: Well, it seems that two or three gunmen or more managed to go inside the building, and they managed to go inside. They apparently had a number of grenades. They had AK-47s and also a number of - had also a number of clips - you know? - for their rifles. And apparently there was a hostage situation.

It's actually still not entirely clear. We've heard some reports just in the last few minutes come in Tehran that everything is calm. But also two hours ago, we heard the same thing saying the events at Parliament was - the events at Parliament were over. But then since then, we've had reports of a number of people held hostage. Then one of the gunmen managed to get out onto the street and was shooting people there. And so I think the situation still is really not clear.

INSKEEP: And that is fair to note that everything we think we know about this may change, but there does appear...

PETERSON: Correct.

INSKEEP: ...To have been an attack with gunmen on the Iranian Parliament and a number of people reported dead. And we know that the Islamic State has claimed responsibility. What is Iran's role against the Islamic State?

PETERSON: So, well, Iran has been actually fighting the Islamic State primarily in Iraq, and that's where it's pushed hard against them and in fact, worked alongside Iraqi security forces and even tangentially with United States forces. And then at the same time, they've pushed against the Islamic State in Syria. So Iran has been targeted by Islamic State propaganda and outlets especially in recent weeks as being a target. It's just that Islamic State, so far, if they are responsible for this one, have not yet successfully carried out an attack against Iran.

INSKEEP: Unusual developments, and we'll continue following them. Scott Peterson is with The Christian Science Monitor. Thanks very much.

PETERSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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