ranian security forces today dismantled a "terrorist unit" in the country’s southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan, according to the public relations directorate of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ (I.R.G.C.) Ground Forces. “After receiving intelligence regarding the presence of a Takfiri terrorist team in Ghasr-e Ghand region of Sistan and Baluchestan, I.R.G.C. ground forces units from the Quds Base were deployed to the area. They clashed with terrorists today (Thursday) after bringing under siege the highlands of Ghasr-e Ghand,” the I.R.G.C. Ground Forces said in a statement. It added that a number of terrorists were killed and injured, while others escaped. A vehicle with 600 kilograms of explosive placed in it, five bombs prepared to be used for suicide attacks, more than 700 kilograms of explosives, and several machine guns were reportedly confiscated during the operation as well. The statement also noted that the I.R.G.C.’s Quds base in coordination with intelligence and law enforcement personnel would continue joint operations to detain other members of the terrorist cell who managed to escape.
Comment: The twin terrorist attacks in Tehran and the subsequent killing and arrest of dozens of militants allegedly linked with the Islamic State indicate that Iran is no longer immune from terrorism and sectarian violence that have wreaked havoc in the Middle East and South Asia in recent years. According to Fars News Agency, Iranian security and intelligence forces yesterday also killed three terrorists and arrested five others in Sistan and Baluchestan’s commercial hub of Chabahar. The militants were reportedly members of Ansar al-Forqan Sunni militant group. Several suicide vests and large amount of ammunition were also seized. Dozens of other alleged terrorists have been arrested in the provinces of Kermanshah, Kurdistan, West Azerbaijan and Hormozgan.
A vast majority of Iran’s Sunni minority – which accounts for about 10 percent of the country’s 80 million population – has rejected the Islamic State’s call to join the terrorist group despite suffering state-sanctioned suppression and marginalization. But the latest attacks in Tehran and the disbandment of terrorist cells across the country demonstrate that Iran has a growing terrorism problem.
Iran’s southeastern region – home to a sizable yet largely marginalized Sunni population – can particularly be a breeding ground for local militant and separatist movements as well regional and international terrorist groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. Sunni Baluchs, who constitute a plurality of the population in the province, have long suffered state-sanctioned discrimination, economic marginalization, cultural repression, disproportionate executions, torture, detention without trials and extra-judicial killings. Sistan and Baluchestan also borders Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Islamic State has gained a foothold recently.