Unidentified gunmen killed two members of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) during a military operation on Wednesday in Zahedan, the capital of Iran’s southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan, the Iranian media reports. According to I.R.G.C.-affiliated Tasnim News Agency, Second Lieutenant Ruhollah Kamaldar and Vahid Aslani served in the Quds base of the I.R.G.C. Ground Force in the southeastern region. Their funeral ceremony will be held in Kerman Province tomorrow.
Comment: The I.R.G.C. must be alarmed by today’s attack for several reasons. First, it comes just two days after Sunni militants assassinated a senior I.R.G.C. commander in the same region – Ruhollah A’ali, an I.R.G.C. battalion commander in Zahedan. Second, the timing of the latest attacks is significant because the Islamic State issued a rare video recently in which the terrorist group threatened to attack Iran and called on Iran’s Sunni minority to rebel against the Shiite-dominated regime in the country.
It is unknown whether the perpetrators of this week’s attacks are affiliated with or inspired by the Islamic State as authorities in Iran have not released details about the identity of these attackers. But regardless, the attacks show Iran’s southeastern region – home to a sizable yet largely marginalized Sunni population – can 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. Third, Sistan and Baluchestan also borders Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Islamic State has gained a foothold recently.