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Gunman Shoots Into Air During Iranian President’s Speech

February 1, 1994

BEHESHT-E ZAHRA, Iran (AP) _ A gunman standing several hundred feet from Iran’s president fired five shots into the air Tuesday during a speech to thousands of people celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

Men in the audience pinned the gunman to the ground and disarmed him, witnesses said. No one was reported injured, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency, and there was no claim of responsibility for the incident during President Hashemi Rafsanjani’s address.

Shouts of ″Death to America″ and ″Hail Rafsanjani, hail Rafsanjani″ rose from the crowd after the shots echoed inside the gold-domed shrine to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, spiritual leader of Iran’s 1979 revolution.

Security guards found ″forged student, police and press cards″ in the 26- year-old gunman’s possession, IRNA reported. The man’s name was not released.

The news agency quoted a security officer as saying the gunman ″did not plan to assassinate any specific person. Rather, he meant to terrorize people and spoil the ceremony.″

IRNA said the gunman was about 500 feet from the president.

Rafsanjani remained composed amid the commotion and continued his speech from the balcony inside the cavernous shrine at the Beheshte-e Zahra cemetery, 20 miles south of Tehran.

Rafsanjani, 60, has survived several assassination attempts since the revolution. He remains popular among his people.

Bodyguards rushed to Rafsanjani’s side as security men below prevented reporters and photographers from approaching the scene. Security men confiscated film and videotape from photographers and television crews.

″I don’t think there is anything at all to worry about,″ Rafsanjani later said on Tehran radio.

″It was an incident in one corner of that vast gathering, which did not interrupt the program ... everything proceeded normally,″ he said.

Weeklong celebrations for the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution come amid increasing discontent in Iran over runaway inflation and government austerity measures.

Rafsanjani was elected to a second four-year term in August on promises of reforms to ease economic hardships in this nation of 60 million people.

He told the 10,000 people at the shrine that total adherence to the commandments of Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was necessary ″to strengthen and stabilize the Islamic order, expand economically and sever the roots of dependence″ on foreign countries.

Tuesday was the anniversary of Khomeini’s return from exile to lead the Islamic Revolution, which culminated in the overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on Feb. 11, 1979.

School bells pealed throughout Iran at 9:30 a.m., the hour when Khomeini’s plane touched down at Tehran airport 15 years ago. Helicopters showered flowers on the path from the airport to Behesht-e Zahra, where Khomeini made his first speech to the nation.

Khomeini died of cancer June 3, 1989. His burial place has become a pilgrimage site for Shiite Muslims.

Update hourly