Shiraz shooting: Gunmen in Iran kill 15 at major Shiite holy site

Rageh Omaar reports on the latest unrest to grip Iran

Fifteen people have been killed after gunmen opened fire at a major Shiite holy site, Iranian state-run media reported.

Two gunmen were arrested and a third is on the run, according to the official website of the judiciary.

The state-run IRNA news agency reported the death toll of the attack, which took place at Shah Cheragh mosque in the southern city of Shiraz. State TV said 40 people were wounded.

State TV blamed the attack on “takfiris,” a term that refers to Sunni Muslim extremists who have targeted the country’s Shiite majority in the past.

However, late on Wednesday, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack on its Amaq news agency. It said an armed IS militant stormed the shrine and opened fire on its visitors. It claimed that some 20 people were killed and dozens more were wounded.

Such attacks are rare in Iran, but last April, an assailant stabbed two clerics to death at the Imam Reza shrine, the country’s most revered Shiite site, in the northeast city of Mashhad.

Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi said that whoever led and planned the attack will “receive a regretful and decisive response,” without elaborating. IRNA quoted Raisi as saying, “This evil will definitely not go unanswered”.

The attack comes as Iran has been affected by anti-government demonstrations for over a month.

The protests in Iran relate to 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody in September. She was detained for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women.

On Wednesday, thousands of protesters poured into the streets of a northwestern Iranian city to mark the watershed 40 days since her death.

Deaths are commemorated in Shiite Islam - as in many other traditions - again 40 days later, typically with an outpouring of grief.

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In Ms Amini's Kurdish hometown of Saqez, crowds snaked through the local cemetery and thronged her grave.

Video footage showed women ripping off their headscarves, or hijabs, and waving them above their heads.

State media reported that 10,000 protesters were in the procession to her grave.

Hengaw, a Kurdish human rights group, said security forces fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators.

The ISNA news agency said security forces fired pellets at crowds of demonstrators on the outskirts of Saqez and pushed back demonstrators who tried to attack the governor's office.

It said local internet access was cut off due to “security considerations.”