Following an armed attack on a police station in Iran’s Sunni city of Zahedan Saturday, media affiliated with security forces have threatened the city’s top Sunni cleric.
The attack Saturday morning by four gunmen targeted a police precinct and resulted in the death of two officers and the attackers. The prominent Sunni religious leader Mowlana Abdolhamid quickly condemned the act, but media linked to the Revolutionary Guard and security organs threatened the dissident cleric on Sunday.
Nour News affiliated with the Supreme National Security Council issued a tweet, blaming Abdolhamid’s critical comments in the past nine months for the attack.
“Destructive statements against the system…are the red line of the regime,” the tweet said and added, “The pure blood of martyrs defending security who were martyred in the terrorist attack on precinct 16 in Zahedan, will not go without punishment.” Although Nour News did not name Abdolhamid, but the target of the threat is clear in the context of Iranian politics.
The attack was reportedly claimed by a Sunni militant group called Jaish al-Adl, or ‘the army of justice,’ which has been fighting the Islamic Republic for a long time but has been largely inactive in recent years. Some people speculated after the attack that it could have been staged by the government to prepare the ground for a crackdown of the restive Sunni population of Baluch ethnicity.
Jason Brodsky on Twitter: “An armed group attacked a police station in Zahedan, a city in #Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan province, and killed a policeman. The report said the militants were equipped with suicide belts and two of them detonated. Some video below. https://t.co/crQiGSs7SR pic.twitter.com/M1DLj57Qzs / Twitter”
An armed group attacked a police station in Zahedan, a city in #Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan province, and killed a policeman. The report said the militants were equipped with suicide belts and two of them detonated. Some video below. https://t.co/crQiGSs7SR pic.twitter.com/M1DLj57Qzs
Tasnim new website affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard did directly address the Sunni cleric. In a report about the attack Tasnim wrote, “Mr. Abdolhamid, you are responsible for having prepared the ground for today’s terrorist operation.”
This was a direct reference to Abdolhamid’s stinging criticism of the regime and calling for a referendum on the future of the country, respect for women, the release of political prisoners, and genuine elections.
Tensions in Zahedan have been high since security forces, under the command of the Revolutionary Guard, killed an estimated 80-90 civilian protesters in the city on September 30, 2022, marking the start of anti-regime nationwide protests in Iran. This tragic event became known as Black Friday.
Since then, the people of Zahedan have been participating in peaceful demonstrations every Friday after prayers and sermons by Abdolhamid, their respected religious leader.
The authorities have attempted to intimidate and silence Abdolhamid, who has regularly criticized the rulers of the Islamic Republic in his sermons.
Some reports have suggested that the police station – precinct #16 – was the compound from where security forces opened fire last September, because it was close to the main mosque where people began their protest march.
Tasnim also threatened Abdolhamid’s followers claiming that they engage in destruction of public and private property, even though all Friday protests have been peaceful marches.
In his statement after the attack, Abdolhamid said, “Our path is pursuing solutions for difficulties society faces through negotiations and constructive criticism, ensuring the territorial integrity of the country and justice, by peaceful means.”
Although incidents of attacks against security forces have occurred in the impoverished and desolate province in the past, the general population has remained peaceful. On Friday, June 30 for example, Zahedan residents held a silent march in the city.
In recent weeks, the regime has escalated pressure on the outspoken cleric by arresting several individuals from his inner circle and supporters. Abdolhamid has also been prevented from leaving Iran for the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. In June, his grandson and several aides were arrested.