Abul-Hasan Al-Muhajir, the spokesman of the Islamic State, has released a short message touting his organization’s responsibility for the Sept. 22 attack in Ahvaz, Iran. Gunmen disguised as Iranian personnel struck a military parade, killing and wounding dozens of people, including members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
And the Islamic State’s chief spokesman emphasizes that the so-called caliphate’s jihadists were responsible.
A “group of the men of the Khilafah and the guardians of the creed in the land of Persia have pounced in defense of their religion, acting to deter and suppress their enemy and to fulfill the Islamic State’s promise to all those who have the blood of Ahlus-Sunnah [Sunnis] on their hands,” Abul-Hasan says.
He continues: “They breached one of the towers of the Majusi state of Iran, by Allah’s grace and favor, and brought the sword of truth down on the necks of the lowly rabble of the Iranian state, as well as its revolutionary guard, as they were parading and showing their arrogance, surrounded by their security forces in the heart of their territory in the land of Ahvaz.”
The word “Majusi” is likely a reference to Zoroastrians, that is, the adherents of a belief system that was once dominant inside Persia. By using this word to describe the Iranians, Abul-Hasan seeks to demean them, implying that they are not true Muslims. The Islamic State and other Sunni jihadists often refer to the Iranians as “rejectionists,” which is also a pejorative term they use for Shiites.
“They killed and massacred their soldiers,” Abul-Hasan crows, adding that they “left the Majusi leaders and shrine servants dumbfounded.”
Abul-Hasan boasts further: “They left them scattered, broke the awe of their revolutionary guard, which is feared by America and the governments in the region, and forced the Majusi leadership to randomly throw accusations as they stubbornly refused to state the plain truth, to the point that they became a laughing stock being mocked by the East and the West.”
With those words, Abul-Hasan is referring to the fact that the Iranians at first blamed multiple parties, including Gulf States and the US, for the actions of the Islamic State. He wants to make it clear that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s loyalists were responsible for the assault in Ahvaz — not Iran’s other rivals or adversaries.
Abul-Hasan then threatens more attacks inside Iran. The Iranians “still haven’t awoken from the horrific shock, and with Allah’s permission, it will not be the last,” he adds. “The sons of the Khilafah, with success granted by Allah, have demonstrated just how weak and fragile the security of the Majusi state of Iran is, for it is weaker than the home of a spider, and with Allah’s ability and strength, what’s coming will be worse and more bitter.”
There were conflicting claims of responsibility in the hours after the attack in Ahvaz. Iran was keen to blame foreign governments for the killings. Besides the Islamic State, another group also reportedly claimed responsibility.
The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency initially released several short written claims, before producing a video allegedly showing the terrorists responsible for the killings.
Abul-Hasan’s message is intended to further underscore the Islamic State’s role.
The massacre in Ahvaz is the second time that the Islamic State has carried out a significant terrorist operation deep inside the heart of Iran. In June 2017, a team of jihadists stormed the Iranian Parliament and the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini.
The Islamic State first released an audio recording of Abul-Hasan’s message, titled “The Muwahhidin’s Assault on the Tower of the Mushrikin,” followed by an English-language transcript.
Abul-Hasan ends his message by calling on “the soldiers of the Khilafah and the carriers of the banner, specifically in Barakah in Sham Wilayah [Syria province], and on all of the Islamic State’s fronts in general” to remain “firm and strong.”
The Islamic State likely wants to use its operation inside Iran to further boost its recruiting among Sunni jihadists and other would-be followers. The Islamic State’s rivals in al Qaeda do not carry out terrorist attacks inside Iran. Al Qaeda is worried that such operations could lead the Iranians to disrupt the group’s facilitation network.