IRGC-led Afghan militiamen hoist flags in Deir Ezzor city

An Afghan Shia jihadist plants the flag of the Fatemiyoun Division near the entrance of the Al Sana’iyah neighborhood of Deir Ezzor.

Afghan Shiite fighters in the Iranian-led Fatemiyoun Division have entered the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor, according to both a report and photos posted by Fars News Agency, a media outlet affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The Assad regime, along with its Iranian and Russian allies, broke the Islamic State’s multi-year siege of Deir Ezzor earlier this month.

The photos show Afghan jihadists placing Fatemiyoun Division flags at the entrance of the Al Sana’iyah neighborhood and on a powerline somewhere in the city.

Fars News claims that a fighter who hoisted a flag yelled, “Oh sons of Yazid [note: the caliph who killed Imam Husayn, now refers to the Islamic State] where are you? We have pursued you here, and know that if you go to your home of origin, Tel Aviv, we’ll follow you there and destroy your houses upon your heads.” IRGC propaganda regularly claims that the US and Israel directly support the Islamic State.

In addition, Fars News claims that “all the fighters and people began yelling labayk ya zeynab and labeyk ya Husayn.” The first part (“labayk ya zeynab”) means “we are at your service, o Zaynab,” a reference to the sister of the third Imam Husayn, who is buried near Damascus. This cannot be independently confirmed by FDD’s Long War Journal. Deir Ezzor is a predominantly Sunni city.

The Fatemiyoun Division joined Hezbollah, the Quds Brigade, and other Iranian-backed militias in the offensive that broke the Islamic State’s siege of the city. Forces belonging to Hezbollah and the Quds Brigade, a Palestinian group, were seen parading and celebrating near the entrance of Deir Ezzor. Al Manar, a Hezbollah television station, interviewed the commander of Syrian forces in the city, Issam Zahreddine, who sent his thanks to Hassan Nasrallah and Hezbollah for their role in the offensive. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Hezbollah and allies parade in Deir Ezzor, Syria.]

Russia has also promoted its role in the battle for Deir Ezzor. Videos released by the Russian Ministry of Defense purportedly show ships targeting Islamic State forces in Deir Ezzor with Kalibr missiles. Both Iran and Russia have provided crucial assistance to the Assad regime as it has advanced in eastern Syria.

Amir Toumaj is a Research Analyst at Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD's Long War Journal.

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