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Responsibility for the Ahvaz attack

The reviewing stand after the attack

Responsibility for the Ahvaz attack


On 22 Sep a military parade in Ahvaz, Southern Iran was attacked by gunmen.[1] Immediately Habib Jaber, the president of an Arab Iranian insurgency group called the Arab Struggle Movement to Liberate Ahwaz[2] Tweeted a statement claiming responsibility for the attack.[3] His Tweet read “The Revolutionary Guards at a military parade were targeted by the National Ahvaz Resistance. This was done in self defence against a designated terrorist militia”.[4] [5]

However, shortly after this claim of responsibility, ISIS’s Amaq News Agency posted a claim of responsibility for the attack which read, “Security Source to Amaq: Islamic State inghimasi (infiltration) attackers attacked a gathering of Iranian Forces in the town of Ahvaz in the South of Iran while President Rouhani was attending a military parade.”

This was soon followed by a correction which stated, “Source: Correction. The Iranian President did not attend the military parade in Ahvaz”.

This was in turn followed by a longer statement from the IS Media Office which claimed that over 100 members of the Iranian Forces had been killed and injured in Ahvaz when a detachment of Islamic State fighters headed to a military parade of Iranian soldiers, members of the Basij militia,[6] and the Revolutionary Guards. The statement added that the detachment opened fire on the parade killing more than 40 people, and that this was in revenge for what the Iranians (and Shia in general) had done to the Sunnis in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan. It concluded by stating that the Iranians would pay the price for their tyranny and worse was to come.

Amaq followed these statements of responsibility with a news report detailing what it claimed took place during the attack. It read as follows, “Headline: Inghimasi attack - around 100 Iranian forces killed and injured on Ahwaz. Main body:Khuzestan : Amaq Agency: around 100 members of the Iranian Forces were killed and injured in an inghimasi attack carried out by Islamic State fighters this morning in the town of Ahwaz, Khuzestan South Iran.

A security source told Amaq that the attack targeted a military parade taking place in the town. It included members and officers of the Basiij, the Revolutionary Guards and the Iranian Army.

According to the source, the clashes involved light weapons and 40 members of the Iranian Forces including two officers were killed in them. 60 others were wounded in the attack.

The attack ended when the attackers were killed.”

On 23 Sep Yaqoub Hur Al-Tostari, the head of the media office for the Arab Struggle Movement to Liberate Ahwaz phoned Al Arabiya’s sister channel Al Hadath to dismiss ISIS’s claim of responsibility for the attack.[7] His first line of defence was that ISIS claim every single attack which takes place in the Middle East. He then stated that the ISIS claim of responsibility was false because ISIS claimed they were attacking a place where President Rouhani was present even though he was in Tehran at the time. He ignored the correction issued by ISIS where they stated Rouhani wasn’t present. Finally he stated that the attack didn’t have the hallmarks of an ISIS attack as ISIS don’t target soldiers but just aim to kill as many people as possible. He ignored the fact that civilians were killed in this attack and that ISIS have been targeting soldiers in Syria and Iraq since 2013.[8]

To complicate the matter further another organisation called the Arab Struggle Movement to Liberate Ahwaz posted a statement denying responsibility for the 22 Sep Ahvaz attack and threatening legal action against Habib Jabar’s group also called the Arab Struggle Movement to Liberate Ahwaz.[9] [10] The statement added that the Arab Struggle Movement to Liberate Ahwaz which claimed responsibility for the attack was a small group which was expelled from the larger Arab Struggle Movement to Liberate Ahwaz in 2015. Both organisations have the same name on their websites and virtually identical Twitter handles.[11] [12] [13] [14]

The video claiming responsibility (screenshot)

Also on 23 September Amaq posted a video on social media which it claimed was footage it received showing three of the Ahvaz attackers taken prior to the attack. Two of them spoke in Arabic talking about jihad and how at ease they were feeling, the third spoke in Persian talking about how they would destroy the enemies of Allah - the Revolutionary Guards and others. This would grant them entry into Paradise. All three men were wearing Revolutionary Guards uniforms.

Journalist Babak Taghvaee tweeted that the Arab Struggle Movement to Liberate Ahwaz splinter group claimed that ISIS stole the above footage from their Telegram account.[15] But as Seth Frantzman pointed out, if this was the case then why didn’t the Arab Struggle Movement to Liberate Ahwaz faction release the original video.[16]

ISIS has previously attacked Iranian targets. On 7 Jun 2017 ISIS fighters in Tehran carried out two attacks in Tehran, in the first attack two ISIS members targeted the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini mausoleum in southern Tehran and in the second three fighters targeted the Iranian Parliament.[17] Shortly after both attacks Amaq posted video footage showing one of the ISIS fighters inside the parliament building opening fire on people inside.[18] On the following day, 8 Jun 2017 the pro-Iranian Regime Lebanese news channel Al Mayadeen broadcast CCTV footage from inside the parliament showing the moment the ISIS attackers entered the building.[19] (Image below-right)

The 2017 attack on parliament (screenshot)

On 8 Jun 2017 ISIS’s weekly newspaper An-Nabaa contained an article and an infographic entitled “The Tehran Raid” covering the attack.

It’s almost certain that ISIS, not an Arab Struggle Movement to Liberate Ahwaz splinter group carried out the attack in Ahvaz. The attack all the hallmarks of an ISIS inghimasi operation, ISIS provided video evidence of the attackers and in the past has successfully targeted two of the most secure sites in all of Iran. So far the Arab Struggle Movement to Liberate Ahwaz splinter group has yet to provide any evidence that it was involved in this attack.


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