Islamic State claims responsibility for recent deadly bombings in Iran

The Islamic State (IS) has once again struck in Iran, claiming responsibility for a bombing attack in Kerman that resulted in the tragic loss of 84 lives during a memorial procession for Major General Qassim Suleimani. This incident, characterized by the extremist group as a “dual martyrdom operation,” underscores the ongoing tensions between Islamic State (IS) and Iran. The attackers, identified as Omar al-Mowahid and Sayefulla al-Mujahid, approached the ceremony at Suleimani’s tomb and detonated explosive belts, emphasizing the group’s relentless pursuit of its mission to target apostate Muslims, particularly Shiites.

Kerman Bombing: Islamic State’s Campaign Against Iran’s Shiite Majority

General Suleimani, a prominent Iranian military figure, was assassinated four years ago in an American drone attack. He played a crucial role in building a network of Shiite militias across the Middle East to combat IS, making him a key figure in the region’s complex dynamics. The latest bombing in Kerman is part of IS’s broader campaign against Iran, a country it views as a sectarian foe responsible for its defeat in Syria and Iraq. Iran’s majority Shiite population is governed by a theocratic regime led by Shiite clerics, further exacerbating the religious tensions.

IS, a Sunni Muslim organization, has repeatedly targeted Iran, with its affiliate ISIS-Khorasan threatening the country over perceived polytheism and apostasy. Previous attacks include a 2022 shooting in Shiraz, where 13 people were killed, and twin attacks in Tehran in 2017, resulting in 17 deaths. The group’s enmity towards Shiites is rooted in the ancient Sunni-Shiite schism, reflecting a seventh-century dispute over the rightful heir to the Prophet Muhammad.

The recent bombing in Kerman follows a pattern of Islamic State (IS) attacks on symbolic and sectarian targets, with the group aiming to undermine Iran’s stability and retaliate against the devotion to General Suleimani, particularly among the younger generation. While initial Iranian reports suggested the use of remote-detonated explosives placed in bags, IS’s claims indicate a more direct and coordinated assault.

In the aftermath of the attack, some Iranian leaders initially pointed fingers at Israel, raising concerns about a potential escalation of regional conflicts, especially given the ongoing war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, a Palestinian ally of Iran. However, Western officials cast doubt on this theory, emphasizing that Israel’s past covert operations in Iran typically targeted specific individuals, scientists, or facilities.

Despite the tragedy, Iran held a National Day of Mourning on the fourth anniversary of General Suleimani’s death, underscoring the general’s revered status among many Iranians, particularly those supporting the government. The Iranian authorities, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, vowed to punish the perpetrators, denouncing the attack as a “blind and spiteful act” aimed at inducing insecurity in the country.

The death toll, initially reported at 103, was later revised to 84 by Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi. With 284 people wounded, including 220 still hospitalized in Kerman, the toll may rise further due to the severe condition of some injured individuals.

Mick Mulroy, a former Pentagon official, noted the lack of love between IS and Iran, describing the timing of the attack as unusual given the ongoing conflict in Gaza and unified Muslim support for the Palestinians. However, he stopped short of speculating on the group’s motivations.

Counterterrorism analyst Colin P. Clarke suggested that ISIS-Khorasan, the IS affiliate in Afghanistan, was likely behind the attack. He highlighted the group’s demonstrated intent and capability to target Iran, driven by its highly sectarian agenda that continuously denigrates Shiites as apostates.

The recent IS-claimed bombing in Kerman serves as a stark reminder of the enduring tensions between the extremist group and Iran. The attack’s timing, on the anniversary of General Suleimani’s assassination, and its symbolic target underscore IS’s strategic approach in pursuing its sectarian agenda. As Iran mourns the victims, the government’s commitment to holding the perpetrators accountable remains steadfast, signalling a continuation of the complex and volatile dynamics in the region.

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