Iran’s Holy City Explodes as Militants Attack the Border
Twin incidents could point to Islamist plots
A huge explosion in the holy city of Qom south of Tehran on Sept. 15 killed one person and injured 17. The explosion comes a week after the Iranian internal minister warned of an Islamic State plot to attack Iran—and in the same week as Iran intensifies its intervention in Iraq.
There has also been a massive attack on an Iranian border checkpoint.
It’s not clear who or what is responsible for the Qom explosion. But it’s apparent that the border attack was the work of Jaysh Al Adl, a Sunni extremist group that is similar to Islamic State in some ways but has not officially allied with the much more powerful organization.
Iranian state television and major online news outlets censored the Qoms incident, but the official head of security in Qom’s provincial office confirmed the incident in local media … and blamed it on a gas leak.
Tehran has a history of covering up terrorist attacks. In 2008, security officials blamed an explosion in a mosque on the mishandling of ammunition for a war exhibit, but later detained and hanged five people for plotting and carrying out the attack.
In early September, Internal Minster Rahmani Fazli made rare public statement acknowledging that Islamic State was planning a major attack on Iran. Fazli told reporters that precautionary measures were in place and Iran had intercepted several Afghans and Pakistanis trying to travel through Iran to Iraq to join Islamic State.
Fazli assured his audience that Islamic State hadn’t recruited any Iranians. This statement contradicts what Iran’s attorney general announced in July—that authorities had apprehended nearly 50 Iranians related to Takfiri groups and Islamic State.
The militant group has also published the names and origins of several of its suicide bombers, including an Iranian man named Abu Ebrahim Al Iran, who attacked a caravan of Iranian engineers in Khanegein in late May.
The obfuscation over Islamic State’s Iranian operations coincided with one of the biggest terror attacks against an Iranian border post in many years. Around 150 armed men in 26 pickup trucks attacked a border post in the Sunni province of Sistan and Baluchistan in southeast Iran.
The assailants were apparently from Jaysh Al Adl, a Sunni extremist group that has carried several terror attacks in recent years. The group isn’t officially allied with Islamic State or Al Qaeda, but it flies black flags similar to those groups’ banners and also shares their basic ideology.
The Jaysh Al Adl fighters set up an ambush on the road leading to the border outpost and then fired recoilless rifles at the facility.
After suppressing the outpost’s defenders, the attackers sent in a suicide bomber in a pickup truck packed with 600 kilograms of explosives and gasoline. The driver got all the way into the compound without any of the border guards firing a shot.
Astonished, the bomber simply walked away and detonated the truck with remote detonator.
The attack killed one Iranian troop and injured five. The outpost defenders claim to have killed one of the assailants. Although the casualties were light, the scale of the assault points to the swelling size and power of armed groups on Iran’s southeast border at a time when terror attacks inside Iran are increasingly likely … or have already happened.