Isis claims responsibility for deadly blasts in Iran

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The jihadist group Isis has claimed responsibility for two bombings in southern Iran on Wednesday that killed almost 100 people in the deadliest attack in the Islamic republic for decades.

The statement, which was posted on Isis-affiliated Telegram channels, claimed two suicide bombers named Omar al-Movahed and Seifollah Mujahed had killed scores of “polytheist” Shia Muslims in the explosions.

Iran’s political leaders have promised to retaliate against those behind the attacks but have stopped short of directly blaming any group or country.

The claim of responsibility could help to ease concerns the attacks would further aggravate already high tensions across the Middle East triggered by Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel and the Jewish state’s subsequent offensive in Gaza.

People visit the scene of Wednesday’s bomb explosion in the city of Kerman
Iranians have responded to the Kerman attacks with a mixture of shock, sorrow and anger © Vahid Salemi/AP

The blasts in Kerman hit a ceremony commemorating Qassem Soleimani, the Revolutionary Guards commander killed in a targeted US drone attack in 2020. Senior guards commanders had initially claimed that the Kerman attacks were orchestrated by Israel, without providing evidence.

Sunni jihadist groups such as Isis have targeted Iran in recent years, killing dozens of civilians mainly in religious sites of Shia Muslims. Soleimani was a prominent figure in the fight against Isis in Iraq and Syria and played a crucial role in keeping the regime of Bashar al-Assad in power in Damascus.

The deadly attacks mark one of Iran’s biggest domestic intelligence failures in years, posing significant questions for the security establishment.

Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, the republic has suppressed opponents among political, ethnic and religious groups. Separatist ethnic groups and Sunni Islamists in border provinces have also faced repression.

Shortly before Isis released its claim of responsibility on Thursday, Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, disclosed that at least one of these attacks was orchestrated by a suicide bomber.

While initial reports had suggested the remote detonation of explosive-laden bags, IRNA suggested that CCTV footage had indicated that a male suicide bomber was behind the first explosion and that a suicide attack was also the most likely explanation for the second.

Isis has previously carried out attacks in Iran, a predominantly Shia nation, including an attempted assault on the parliament building in Tehran and the mausoleum of the republic’s founder, Ruhollah Khomeini, in 2017.

The following year, gunmen opened fire on a military parade in the city of Ahvaz, killing dozens of people, including members of the Revolutionary Guards.

Isis seized control of vast swaths of Syria and Iraq in a blitz in 2014. But the jihadis were driven from their territorial strongholds in both countries by international coalitions in 2018 and 2019.

Iranians have responded to the Kerman attacks with a mixture of shock, sorrow and anger.

Simin, a housewife aged 57, questioned the republic’s claim to provide stability: “What’s the benefit of security after scores of innocent people lost their lives? Why should we witness such a bloodbath in the first place?”

First appeared on www.ft.com

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