An attack on a bus of IRGC members in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province on February 13 is one of the deadliest in recent memory. More than 20 IRGC members were reported killed, with up to 40 casualties reported as evening wore on.
It comes at a tense time in Iran and in relations between Iran and the US. The US is co-hosting a meeting in Warsaw aimed at confronting Iran, although some of the details of that meeting have been watered down Jaish al-Adl, a militant group active in southeastern Iran has increased its attacks recently, according to a report at The Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis (MECRA). The report indicates “In 29th January 2019, a suicide bombing targeted a police headquarters in the city of Zahedan. Three people were injured. A Baluch Group Called “Jaish Al Adl ” claimed responsibility for the attack. On February 2 the group announced another attack on one of the headquarters of IRGC’s ground forces in Nikshar, Sistan and Balouchestan.”
Now a more serious attack has taken place on a road near the Pakistan border on the way to Zahedan. The attack took place at sunset and involved a suicide bomber in a car or truck adjacent to the bus. Onlookers gathered after the attack and video showed a mangled bus. Oddly security services didn’t seem to cordon off the scene. Rumors say that a twitter account earlier in the day had predicted an attack.
Iran’s foreign minister condemned the attack and linked it to the Warsaw meeting.
A statement posted by Edaalat News said that Jaish al-Adl had claimed responsibility for the attack. “The Jaish al-Adl organization informs the public that the beloved sons of Baluchestan targeted the bus carrying Revolutionary Guards . on the Khash-Zahedan route. Initial reports show the deaths of all 40 occupants of the bus.” It was unclear how the person who put out the statement would have known the bus contained 40 IRGC members or that the operation, which took place at night, had successfully killed them.
The IRGC also released a statement condemning the “takfiri” terrorists and describing details of the attack. Iranian media now says the attack was carried out to sow ethnic discord. It is the worst of its kind since a September attack in Ahwaz that targeted a military parade. After that attack Iran fired ballistic missiles at ISIS in Syria. As with the attack in southeastern Iran there were initial claims of responsibility by a group that was later distanced from it. Jaish al-Adl may be behind the February 13 attack, but the full picture is still emerging.