Iran General NewsIran's Karroubi attacked, son says

Iran’s Karroubi attacked, son says

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Wall Street Journal: Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi was attacked on Thursday night when a group of militiamen broke into his residential building and fired on his bodyguards, according to a family member.

The Wall Street Journal

By FARNAZ FASSIHI

Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi was attacked on Thursday night when a group of militiamen broke into his residential building and fired on his bodyguards, according to a family member.

Militia in plainclothes armed with guns and knives shattered windows, broke the front door and set the parking lot on fire by throwing tear gas and a hand grenade over the wall, Mr. Karroubi’s son, Mohamad Taghi Karroubi, said by telephone Thursday night. The militia stormed the hallway, shooting in the air as they ran upstairs to Mr. Karroubi’s front door, where they engaged in a 90-minute battle with his bodyguards, the younger Mr. Karroubi said.

Mr. Karroubi and his family were holed up in a safe room, away from the windows and gunfire, his son said, but 11 people were injured in the violence, including Mr. Karroubi’s head of security, who was taken to the hospital and remains in critical condition. The shooting attack couldn’t be independently confirmed.

Mr. Karroubi issued a statement asking supporters not to come to his house, but by late Thursday night, several hundred demonstrators from the opposition Green Movement had begun to gather in Mr. Karroubi’s neighborhood, according to eyewitnesses.

“I am very angry. We will back Karroubi one hundred percent until Iran is free,” said Mostafa. The young man, who didn’t give his last name, was on his way to Mr. Karroubi’s house with several friends.

Security forces and antiriot police were dispatched throughout the capital. They set up checkpoints and dispersed the crowds. In many neighborhoods, people chanted “God is great” from rooftops, witnesses said.

“This was a clear assassination attempt and we don’t know if we will be alive or dead by tomorrow,” the younger Mr. Karroubi said. He said his father plans to continue pushing for democracy. Electricity and water service to his father’s apartment building had been cut, he said.

The attack was carried out by Basij militia under the command of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to Mr. Karroubi’s family.

The militia had surrounded Mr. Karroubi’s residence for five nights. Videos posted on opposition websites show the militia breaking windows and splashing paint on his house, while chanting their loyalty to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and saying they are under his command. Those incidents had prompted Mr. Karroubi’s wife, Fatemeh, to write an open letter to Mr. Khamenei blaming him for the violence against her family.

The heightened confrontations on Thursday night appeared to be aimed at intimidating the opposition on the eve of Quds Day on Friday. Mr. Karroubi had met with another opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, on Wednesday, according to opposition websites.

Quds means Jerusalem in Arabic, and the day alludes to the Arab struggle to free Jerusalem from the Israelis. In Iran and many other Muslim countries, including Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, rallies are held each year on Quds Day in support of the Palestinian people.

This year, Quds Day coincides with the Mideast peace talks in Washington. Iran has criticized the negotiations and hard-line media such as Fars News on Thursday called on Muslims around the world to turn out “in even greater numbers this year to show the imperialist America that we are present and aware.”

Mr. Karroubi and Mr. Mousavi had said they would participate in the Quds Day demonstration in Tehran and had called on supporters to join them. The opposition has used government-sanctioned protests as an excuse to show its muscle and gather in public.

Last year, during the protests that rocked Iran after contested elections in June, supporters of the Green Movement hijacked a Quds Day demonstration in Tehran, chanting “Death to the dictator,” and “No to Gaza, No to Lebanon. My life is for Iran “—an embarrassment for the Iranian regime, which views itself as the guardian of the Arab fight against Israel and has for decades supported groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

Tehran’s chief of security forces, Hossein Sajad, told Iranian state media that security forces were put on alert on Thursday because of the “sensitivity of Quds Day and to identify and arrest troublemakers.”

Internet connections were slow in major Iranian cities and the gmail email service wasn’t functioning, according to reports on opposition websites.

Analysts said the government’s security measures and the attacks on Mr. Karroubi showed that the Islamic regime is still intimidated by the opposition and fears mass unrest.

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