‘Repugnant’: Iran slams Trump’s condolences to Tehran attacks victims

Iran’s foreign minister has branded condolences sent by the White House over recent Tehran attacks as “repugnant.” The US administration sent sympathies to Iran, but lectured that “states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.”

“Repugnant White House statement … as Iranians counter terrorism backed by US clients. Iranian people reject such US claims of friendship,” Javad Zarif tweeted.

@JZarif Repugnant WH statement & Senate sanctions as Iranians counter terror backed by US clients.Iranian people reject such US claims of friendship

At least 13 people died and dozens were injured in gun and bomb attacks at the Iranian parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini’s shrine in Tehran on Wednesday. The attacks were claimed by Islamic state (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), said Amaq news agency, which is affiliated with the terrorists.

The five attackers were Iranian citizens who had joined IS before returning to Iran in summer 2016, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry confirmed on Thursday.

“The five known terrorists... after joining the IS terrorist group, left the country and participated in crimes carried out by this terrorist group in Mosul and Raqqa,” the ministry said.

READ MORE: Sponsors of terror ‘falling victim to evil they promote’ ‒ Trump on Tehran attacks

On Wednesday evening, the White House sent condolences to Iran, including the controversial cautionary note.

“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,” the White House said in a statement. “We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.” 

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards [IRGC] accused Saudi Arabia of masterminding the attacks, saying that the assaults “happened only a week after the meeting between the US president [Donald Trump] and the [Saudi] backward leaders who support terrorists.”

Brigadier General Hossein Salami, IRGC deputy commander, vowed to “take revenge” for the attacks.

“Let there be no doubt that we will take revenge for today's attacks in Tehran, on terrorists, their affiliates and their supporters,” he said, Mehr news agency reported.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, rejected Tehran’s accusations.

“We condemn terrorist attacks anywhere they occur and we condemn the killing of the innocent anywhere it occurs,” Jubeir said.

According to the director of the Crisis Research Institute, Mark Almond, it is highly possible IS was, as it claims, behind the attacks in Iran as the group is interested in stirring up a Sunni-Shiite conflict. However, other groups and regional player involvement can’t be ruled out, he added.

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Multiple Dead in Suicide Attacks on Iran Parliament

Four gunmen reportedly burst into Tehran’s parliament complex with rifles and a pistol, and one of the attackers blew himself up on the fourth floor.

Gunmen and suicide bombers reportedly carried out a coordinated attack on Iran’s parliament.

RELATED: Ayatollah: Saudi Arabia Is a 'Cow Milked' by U.S.

Four gunmen reportedly 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.

At least 12 people have died and dozens injured, the head of Iran's emergency department, Pir-Hossein Kolivand, was quoted as saying by state broadcaster IRIB.

There were also other unsubstantiated sources reporting that a number of members of parliament were taken hostage.

It is unclear how the attackers breached the security checkpoints to enter the parliament building.

Police helicopters were hovering over the building, entrance and exit gates were closed, and mobile phones were jammed.

Chamber reporters were ordered to stay put.

A Jamaran News image said to be of the moment the attacker detonated a suicide belt at the Khomeini shrine.

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 the building when the attack occurred told the Associated Press: “I thought that children were playing with fireworks, but I realized people were hiding and lying down on the streets.”

Approximately half an hour after the first attack, three to four individuals entered the western entrance of Khomeini’s tomb complex and opened fire. One attacker also reportedly detonated a suicide belt.

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 a third plot was foiled.

The state broadcaster Irib reported that the ministry said: “Members of a third group were arrested before being able to carry out any attack.”

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100,000 people displaced by fighting in Raqqa, Syria, since April – UN

Some 100,000 people have been displaced due to heavy fighting near the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, since April this year, a UN human rights chief says. Children are the worst hit, many subjected to torture, sexual violence and executions.

“We need to see a step-change in access to the increasingly dire situation in northeastern Syria…With some 100,000 people displaced due to fighting around Raqqa since April, access is needed now through every possible modality,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien said in a statement to the UN Security Council on Syria on Tuesday. 

According to O’Brien, the protection space is “shrinking, humanitarian conditions are worsening, and the level of despair is rising” across the entire country. In Idlib alone, there are over 900,000 displaced people, he said.

READ MORE: US begins arming Kurdish militia fighting ISIS near Raqqa

This is “not due to insecurity or poor infrastructure, but by increasingly strict limitations by local authorities, non-state-armed groups, as well as terrorist organizations, and the actions of some neighboring countries.”

The city of Raqqa, some 40km from Tabqa Dam, Syria’s largest reservoir, was captured by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) back in 2013. Since then the city has been a scene of heavy battles and numerous offensives.

Clashes and airstrikes have recently intensified near the city as US-backed Syrian rebels reached the northern entrance of Raqqa, AP reported on Tuesday, citing activists.

Airstrikes in mid-May killed nearly two dozen farmworkers in a village in eastern Raqqa, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said earlier in May.

Hussein called on all forces operating in Syria to be more careful to correctly distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilians.

READ MORE: Safe zones in Syria come into force: Here’s what we know about

In the meantime, O’Brien praised efforts of Iran, Russia and Turkey which established a memorandum on the creation of four de-escalation zones which came into force earlier in May.

This “memorandum that stipulates, in no uncertain terms, that fighting must significantly decrease and unhindered humanitarian access be enabled to these four areas,” he said.

‘Children tortured, subjected to sexual violence & executed’

Children remain the worst-affected group of population amid Syrian crisis, O’Brien said, adding that some 7 million children are now living in poverty in the war-torn country.

“Tens of thousands of children have been killed, and for those who have survived till today, the outlook remains bleak,” he said.

According to O’Brien, Syrian children “have been forcibly detained, they have been tortured, subjected to sexual violence, forcibly recruited and in some cases executed.”

READ MORE: Dozens of civilians, incl women & children, killed in US airstrikes in Syria – state media

He reminded that outside the country, Syrian children are “left to face an uncertain and traumatic future on their own”.

“They have become stateless, abandoned by the world,” he said.

“How are these children meant to function as adults? What future do these children have – illiterate, orphaned, starved, traumatized and maimed?” O’Brien said in an emotional plea to the UNSC.

“What future does a country have when its next generation is a lost generation? For these suffering children, what’s at stake isn’t politics. It’s their lives and their futures. It is their innocent voices, their suffering that need advocating,” he added.

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West bears responsibility for chaos & terrorist attacks in MidEast and N. Africa – Lavrov

The western states that supported regime changes and financed militants in the Greater Middle East, particularly in Libya, bear responsibility for the chaos ravaging the region, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during his visit to Cairo.

Lavrov arrived in Cairo on Monday with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu for a joint meeting of the Russian and Egyptian foreign and defense ministers. The fight against terrorism was top of the meeting’s agenda.

Both sides reiterated that for counter-terrorist efforts to have any effect, the fight against this global threat must be carried out jointly.

“The recent attack on the Coptic Christians once again highlights the need for vigilance. We stand united in our attempt to boost anti-terrorist efforts around the globe,” Lavrov said during a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart that followed the meeting.

Lavrov was referring to Friday’s terrorist attack in the town of Minya, which claimed the lives of 28 people, including children, and left dozens injured. Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attack, which prompted Egypt to launch what it called responsive strikes against jihadist positions in neighboring Libya.

On Saturday, the Egyptian Defense Ministry said in a statement that Egypt’s armed forces have successfully completed the destruction of all planned targets abroad, including the militants’ concentration areas and training camps.

During the press conference, Lavrov addressed the issue of the ongoing Libyan crisis that poses a security threat for neighboring countries, including Egypt, and once again drew attention to the fact that western involvement in the crisis in the North African country led only to the dismantling of its statehood and eventually turned it into “a backyard for terrorists.”

“Libya was bombed and its government was violently overthrown. It was turned into a backyard for terrorists and criminals. The regime was changed with the help of those [militants], who came from Europe. They were free to leave their countries because everybody knew where they were going and what they were going to do there. And then they were welcomed back,” he said.

“Now, we just see the consequences of these irresponsible policies,” Lavrov told reporters at the press conference, adding that western countries should bear responsibility for the chaos that resulted from their actions.

Earlier, Lavrov also met with the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit. The Secretary-General later told RT’s Maria Finoshina that he “very much” approves of Egypt’s airstrikes against terrorists in Libya.

Shoigu also discussed issues related to combating terrorism and extremism with his Egyptian counterpart. The two sides agreed to continue sharing intelligence and discussed joint exercises and military training.

The Russian and Egyptian foreign and defense ministers also held a joint meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi and discussed regional conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa.

In October 2015, 224 people, mostly Russian citizens, were killed after an improvised explosive device went off on board an Airbus A321 flying from Sharm El Sheikh International Airport to St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport. The Metrojet Flight 9268 crashed as it was flying over the northern Sinai Peninsula. Islamic State’s supporters in Sinai claimed responsibility for the attack. The bombing led to several countries suspending flights to Egypt over concerns of lack of airport security. While Moscow has continued to uphold the ban, the steps undertaken by Cairo to improve security have led to an agreement to resume the flights “in the shortest term,” the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said following Monday’s meeting in Cairo.

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US & Saudi Arabia say it's necessary to maintain Syria whole & united – White House

The Syrian conflict must be solved through political means with the country’s unity and territorial integrity maintained, the US and Saudi Arabia has said in a joint statement released by the White House on Tuesday.

Washington and Riyadh “emphasized the importance of reaching a permanent solution to the conflict in Syria based on the Geneva declaration and Security Council resolution 2254, in order to maintain the unity and integrity of Syrian territory,” the statement read.

 
U.S. President Donald Trump, Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and arab leaders pose for a photo during Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh © Jonathan Ernst

The announcement, which summed up the discussions of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia last weekend, said that after the end of hostilities, Syria must become “a country that represents the entire spectrum of the Syrian community and free from sectarian discrimination.”

The Geneva II Communique (2014) and UNSC resolution 2254 (2015) envisages a roadmap for a political solution of the Syrian conflict, urging a ceasefire, transitional government and free elections in the country.

Saudi Arabia has also backed “President Trump’s decision to launch missiles at Shayrat Airbase” Tuesday's statement said further.

The US President ordered a barrage of Tomahawk missiles fired at Syria’s Shayrat airbase in response to an alleged chemical attack in the town of Khan Shaykhun in the country’s Idlib province on April 4. Washington immediately labeled Bashar Assad’s government as the perpetrators of the attack despite Russia calling for an impartial investigation and Syria denying the charge.

“The two sides emphasized the importance that the Syrian regime adhere to the 2013 agreement to eliminate its entire stockpile of chemical weapons,” the statement read.

During Trump’s visit to the Gulf kingdom, the US President and King Salman ”agreed to boost cooperation in order to to eliminate Daesh, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations,” the statement also said.

“The two leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to curb the flow of foreign fighters and cutting off funding supplies for terrorist organizations.”

Saudi Arabia had previously been blamed for backing extremists in Syria, with Hillary Clinton’s leaked emails saying the Saudis are “providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups.”

READ MORE: Trump strikes arms deal with Saudis worth $350bn, $110bn to take effect immediately

The US has provided weapons to the so-called “moderate” rebels fighting the Syrian government with the arms often ending up in the hands of Islamic State or the al-Qaeda offshoot, Jabhat al-Nusra.

Washington and Riyadh also supported the Iraqi government’s efforts to tackle the Islamic State (IS, Daesh, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group while underlining the importance of “preserving the unity and integrity of Iraqi territory.”

Trump and the Saudi monarch then turned on Iran, saying they need to “contain Iran’s malign interference in the internal affairs of other states, instigation of sectarian strife, support of terrorism and armed proxies, and efforts to destabilize the countries in the region.”

READ MORE: US changes tactics against ISIS, working on plan with 'enthusiastic' Russians

They also said “the nuclear agreement with Iran (signed under the Obama administration) needs to be re-examined in some of its clauses,” the statement read.

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Police terror raids continue after man arrested in connection with Manchester attack

Bomb squads swooped on a home in the Manchester suburb of Fallowfield to carry out a “controlled explosion” as part of an ongoing terrorism investigation, according to police.

Residents in Fallowfield posted footage of armed police close to a house on Elsmore Road. Some took to Twitter to report “loud explosions.”

@TTBXXX @SkyNews FALLOWFIELD MANCHESTER

Police have also raided a property in nearby Whalley Range.

“Police have executed warrants, one in Whalley Range, and one in Fallowfield, where a controlled explosion took place, as part of the investigation into last night’s horrific attack at the Manchester arena,” police said in a brief statement.

@AYoung0305 Believe a bomb has gone off outside my house in Fallowfield?? @MENnewsdesk

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DAgonkLXsAIfkRo.jpg

@the_mubarak Apparent explosion in fallowfield with Swat teams responding. Stay safe everyone

@CallumCIowes Explosion in Fallowfield Manchester, possibly controlled by police, top of my street

A 23-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the Manchester bomb attack, police say.

“With regards to the ongoing investigation into last night’s horrific attack at the Manchester arena, we can confirm we have arrested a 23-year-old man in South Manchester,” Greater Manchester Police said in a statement.

@gmpolice With regards to last night’s incident at the Manchester arena, we can confirm we have arrested a 23-year-old man in South Manchester.

The attack on Monday night at Manchester Arena, which killed 22 people, including children, was carried out by a suicide bomber who died at the scene. Some 59 people were also injured in the blast.

Detectives are investigating whether the attacker acted in connection with others.

Another man was arrested in the Arndale Centre, but this is not currently believed to be connected to Monday night’s attacks.

@gmpolice A man has been arrested at the Arndale Centre – This is not currently believed to connected to last night’s attacks.

Speaking outside Downing Street on Tuesday, prime minister Theresa May said security services believe they know the identity of the attacker but that he could not yet be named.

She said he had chosen the time and the place to attack and cause "maximum carnage and to kill and injure indiscriminately." 

May said security services "believe the attack was carried out by one man" but need to find out whether "he was acting alone or part of a wider group."

If others are responsible for the attack, they will be brought to justice, she said.

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Wave of ‘more dangerous, skilled’ ISIS jihadists bound to hit Europe – UN counterterrorism chief

Europe will have to come to grips with an exodus of “dangerous and disillusioned” Islamic State jihadists, defeated in Syria and Iraq earlier this year and possibly seeking revenge, the head of the UN Security Council's counterterrorism agency has warned.

Scores of foreign Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) fighters, determined to come back to Europe, are “more dangerous” than previous waves of returnees, Jean-Paul Laborde told reporters on Thursday. Some may be eager to seek revenge after defeats on the battlefield, including in recent confrontations in Mosul.

 
© Dado Ruvic

The first wave of the returnees was mainly made up of young people who went to Syria and Iraq “for T-shirts and photos,” Laborde said, RTBF reported. They came back “disillusioned and dismayed.” The second wave may contain much more extreme individuals, who had more time to build contacts with criminal organizations that can assist them in committing attacks.

Between 40 to 50 percent of foreign fighters, who left for Syria and Iraq, have already left territories controlled by IS, Laborde added.

“On average, these people are much more committed, more experienced and more skilled,” he told reporters, as cited by Reuters.

“In spite of the travel restrictions ... still you will have a number of foreign terrorist fighters which will probably slip through the borders and go back, come back to these countries, especially with smuggling networks,” he added.

Over the last 18 months, the flow of departures of fighters from Europe to Syria or Iraq fell by some 90 percent, the UN official said, calling for international cooperation not only between EU member states, but also between countries involved in armed conflicts and their neighbors.

Some 5,000 EU nationals are currently fighting in Syria among the ranks of IS and other jihadist groups, a senior Syrian official said last month, warning that it’ll be a disaster for European security if these militants are allowed to return.

 
© Eric Gaillard

“We have statistics that about five thousand terrorists fighting in Syria have come from the EU countries,” Syria's Deputy Minister of Expatriates and Foreign Affairs Ayman Susan told Sputnik in mid-April.

“Imagine that these 5,000 terrorists will return to Europe ... they can do it,” the diplomat warned.

IS provides free passage to Europe to refugees willing to join the terrorist group, offering potential recruits up to $1,000 while actively infiltrating migrant communities in countries of destination, a British anti-extremism think tank warned in February.

The report by Quilliam think tank also found that underage asylum seekers are at increasing risk of being radicalized by IS preachers infiltrating refugee camps and local migrant communities.

“Groups such as Islamic State and Boko Haram recruit using financial incentives within refugee camps and work with smugglers and traffickers to facilitate the journey to asylum,” Quilliam said.

According to the think tank, IS is clearly aware of the value of migrant routes in the Eastern Mediterranean as it offers free passage and “a degree of security” to those willing to join IS.

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Putin: I discussed de-escalation zones in Syria with Trump, Erdogan

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he has discussed introducing de-escalation zones in Syria with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during talks in Sochi on Wednesday and with US President Donald Trump in a phone call the previous day.

Consultations with Tehran and Damascus have also been held on the issue, Putin said.

"For the development of the political process [in Syria], a ceasefire must be provided... Russia, Turkey and Iran have all the time been thinking of how to secure this practice of a ceasefire. One of the methods is creating safe zones, or de-escalation zones," Putin said on Wednesday during a joint press conference with Turkish President Erdogan in Sochi.

Moscow has already conducted "preliminary consultations" with Damascus and Tehran on the matter, Putin said, adding that the issue has also been discussed with US President Trump, who appears to support the idea of safe zones.

"We all reason from [a position] that mechanisms to guarantee the end of bloodshed and provision for the beginning of a political dialogue must be created," the Russian president said, adding that Turkey also fully supports this position.

However, the different sides in the Syrian conflict should themselves make "the final decision," Putin added.

"In the end, only they are in charge of their country's fate. On our side, we – Russia, Turkey and Iran – as guarantors of a ceasefire, will make everything for such mechanisms to improve and be efficient," he told the media.

READ MORE: Putin, Trump speak by phone, discuss Syria, N. Korea – Kremlin

Moscow and Ankara both agree that "the creation of safe zones must lead to further conciliation and strengthening of the ceasefire regime" in war-torn Syria, Putin said.

The Russian president pointed out that regardless of safe zones, the fight will continue against terrorist organizations in Syria such as Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Al-Nusra Front and other groups seen as terrorist by the United Nations.

The question of ceasefire monitoring in possible de-escalation zones is "an issue for separate talks," Putin added, saying that international military officials are in contact on the subject.

"In terms of air force flights, aviation will also not be deployed in de-escalation zones, on condition of no military activity there," the Russian president told journalists in Sochi.

The Turkish leader said that while he and the Russian president had discussed the issue of safe zones in Syria during their Sochi negotiations, it is the Astana peace talks participants who will work on the question. "I hope that a de-escalation zone will be implemented," Erdogan said.

The topic of de-escalation zones is especially related to the province of Idlib, where "many people from Aleppo have found refuge," the Turkish president pointed out.

READ MORE: Some trade restrictions between Russia and Turkey to remain for now – Putin

Having reiterated calls to stop the bloodshed of innocent people in Syria, the Turkish president said that both Moscow and Ankara back punishment for those behind an alleged chemical attack in the town of Khan Shaykhun in Syria's Idlib province.

"Such a barbaric attack must not be left unpunished," Erdogan said.

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