Shiite Shah Cheragh shrine in Shiraz, southern Iran, which was the target of the attack (Tasnim, October 26, 2022)
Shooter at the entrance to the Shah Cheragh shrine.
Shooter firing at the worshipers in the shrine (Telegram, October 26, 2022)
ISIS operative Abu Aisha al-Omari holding a rifle with an ISIS flag behind him (Telegram, October 29, 2022)
- On October 26, 2022, an ISIS operative armed with a rifle carried out a shooting attack in the Shiite Shah Cheragh shrine in the city of Shiraz, in Fars Province, southern Iran. At least 15 people were killed and about 40 were wounded (Tasnim, October 26, 2022).
- The attack took place during the protests sweeping Iran since September 16, 2022, following the murder of Mahsa Amini by Iranian regime members, after she had been arrested by morality police in Tehran for allegedly breaching the country’s Islamic dress code for women. The Iranian president claimed that the riots had paved the road to the attack, and the IRGC commander declared that the Iranian regime would act strongly against ISIS and even escalate its activity against the protesters.
- ISIS carried out only a few terrorist attacks in Iran, despite Iran’s deep involvement in fighting against the organization in Syria and Iraq and although most of the Iranian residents are Shiites, constituting a preferred target for attacks on the part of ISIS. ISIS’s recent attack in Iran was carried out over four years ago. ISIS took advantage of the attack in Shiraz for propaganda purposes and threatened to continue attacking Iran.
- The Iranian regime attempts to leverage the attack to justify more aggressive repression of the riots in the country, fearing a further escalation of the riots that would endanger the regime’s survival. ISIS, and possibly also other Salafi organizations, will try to take advantage of the crisis in Iran to carry out further attacks in the country and also for propaganda purposes, in view of the decline in the scope of ISIS’s attacks and the attacks against its operatives around the world.
Shiite Shah Cheragh shrine in Shiraz, southern Iran, which was the target of the attack
(Tasnim, October 26, 2022)
Details of the attack
- On the evening of October 26, 2022, an ISIS operative armed with a rifle carried out a shooting attack against worshipers in the Shiite Shah Cheragh shrine in the city of Shiraz, in Fars Province in southern Iran, about 680 km south of Tehran. There were at least 15 killed and 40 wounded (Tasnim, October 26, 2022).
- Footage (3:09 minutes) from the security camera of the Shah Cheragh shrine, which was posted on social media on October 26, 2022, shows the ISIS operative holding a rifle, including two attached magazines, and probably holding additional magazines in his pockets. After handling a firearm malfunction, the perpetrator entered the shrine and fired at the worshipers, men, women and children, who were running for their lives. A group of worshipers tried to find shelter inside the shrine and about five of them managed to pass through a narrow passage and were shot as well. After the shooter changed magazines, he fired at them one more time (Telegram, October 26, 2022).
Right: Shooter at the entrance to the Shah Cheragh shrine. Left: Shooter firing at the worshipers in the shrine (Telegram, October 26, 2022)
- ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. In its statement, the organization notes that its operative shot at several Iranian policemen and security guards at the entrance to the Shiite shrine and several policemen and security guards were killed or wounded. Then he entered the shrine compound and shot at a group of worshipers. According to ISIS, about 20 people were killed and dozens were wounded. ISIS threatened the Shiites that “the offspring of the Prophet’s Companions inherit the [right of] taking revenge on them a generation after generation.” ISIS also mentions the attack carried out by its operatives in 2018, during an Iranian military parade in the Ahvaz Province, in southwestern Iran, as evidence that the organization continues to take revenge on the Shiites (Amaq, Telegram, October 26, 2022).
Right: ISIS’s claim of responsibility for the attack. Left: ISIS’s Amaq News Agency’s notice on the attack (Amaq, Telegram, October 26, 2022)
- Three days after the attack, on October 29, 2022, ISIS published a photo of the perpetrator, codenamed Abu Aisha al-Omari, holding a rifle with an ISIS flag behind him (Telegram, October 29, 2022).
ISIS operative Abu Aisha al-Omari holding a rifle with an ISIS flag behind him
(Telegram, October 29, 2022)
- Footage published by Iranian authorities shows the perpetrator’s arrest when Iranian rapid deployment force fighters on motorcycles arrive on the scene and rush into the shrine compound. According to the video, they arrive on the scene only a minute and a half after the attack started. The fighters are seen searching the shrine until one of them takes over the shooter and together with another fighter pins him down to the ground and beats him up. The beaten ISIS operative is then seen taken away from the shrine (Telegram, October 29, 2022).
Right: Shooter at the moment of his arrest by the Iranian rapid deployment force. Left: Shooter hospitalized after his arrest (Telegram, October 29, 2022)
- Using the attack for propaganda: ISIS’s weekly Al-Naba dedicated its cover story as well as an infographic to the attack. According to the cover story, “the Islamic State once again attacks Zoroastrian Iran [Zoroastrianism being the predominant religion in Pre-Islamic Iran], this time inside a polytheistic burial structure in the city of Shiraz.” The victims are referred to in the article as “polytheistic rejectionists.” The article is concluded with the threat that ISIS will continue taking revenge on the Shiites. The infographic published by the weekly sums up the details of the attack under a quote by previous ISIS spokesman Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, taken from his tape dated September 26, 2018, in which he referred to the terrorist attack in Ahvaz, noting that the attack will not be the last one and that it reflects the fragility of the Iranian regime, which is likened to a cobweb. Al-Muhajir threatened Iran saying that “What will come [further down the way] will be much worse and bitter” (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, October 20, 2022; Telegram, September 26, 2018). The quote was intended to emphasize that the organization abides by its promises and does not send idle threats.
Right: Cover page of Al-Naba weekly dedicated to the attack. Left: The infographic summing up the details of the attack (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, October 20, 2022)
- In this context, it should be noted that on October 19, 2022, Jaysh al-Adl, a Sunni jihadi organization operating in Baluchistan, in eastern Iran, called for operating against the regime in light of the protests throughout Iran. In these circumstances, it seems that Islamist elements inside Iran and abroad wish to leverage the chaotic situation in the country to hit the Iranian regime. Therefore, it seems that the Islamic jihadist dimension has been added to the riots, which are now focused on slogans against the regime’s dictatorship and in favor of freedom and human rights.
Reactions to the attack
- Iranian official media attributed the attack to ISIS (which it refers to as “takfiri terrorists”), noting that the Iranian security forces arrested the perpetrator. At first, Iranian security forces estimated that the attack had been carried out by three perpetrators. However, they subsequently learned that there was only one, apparently from watching the documentation of the attack by security cameras in the shrine compound (Reuters, October 27, 2022).
- Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Iran’s Majles (Parliament) Speaker, and Ahmad Vahidi, Iran’s minister of the interior, claimed immediately after the attack that the wave of protests around the country against the regime had increased the probability of such an event taking place, alluding that the protesters carry the responsibility for the attack and that ISIS took advantage of the chaotic situation in Iran to carry out the attack (BBC in Persian, October 27, 2022).
- Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi claimed that the riots in Iran had paved the road to the attack (Al-Jazeera, October 27, 2022). On October 29, 2022, the newspaper Iran (which is affiliated with Raisi) threatened, under the title “End of Tolerance,” that following the attack, the regime would escalate its activity against the protesters. It should be noted that so far, about 270 protesters have been murdered by the regime throughout Iran (Iran International, October 29, 2022).
- IRGC Commander Hussein Salami noted that the regime would act firmly against ISIS. He said, “We firmly declare that the Iranian fire of revenge will hit them [i.e., ISIS operatives] and punish them for their shameful actions” (Tasnim, October 27, 2022). On October 29, 2022, in a speech he delivered at the funeral of the victims of the Shiraz attack, he warned the protesters not to go out to the streets anymore, insinuating that otherwise they will be handled extremely harshly. He noted that most of Iran’s problems stem from schemes of the US, Israel, and several European countries against Iran (Iran International, October 30, 2022).
- Opposition elements claimed that the attack served the regime in the current situation, insinuating that the regime may have not done enough to prevent it (BBC in Persian, October 27, 2022).
- In light of the chaotic situation in Iran, which has been going on for over 40 days in a row, it seems that the Salafi jihadist organizations, with ISIS on top, will continue to try to take advantage of the situation in Iran to carry out terrorist attacks, or at least to prepare themselves for carrying out attacks.
- On the other hand, it seems that the Iranian regime will continue to leverage the attack as an excuse to use extreme violence to crush the demonstrations against it while portraying the demonstrators as those who destabilize security in the country thereby encouraging activity of terrorist elements.
- It should be remembered that ISIS does not have a solid base in Iran and it is barely active in the country. However, the attack may encourage similar inspiration attacks. In addition, it is possible that ISIS operatives in Afghanistan (which borders Iran), where the organization is more established, will take a more active part to promote attacks in Iran.
- ISIS leverages the attack for propaganda purposes and the recruitment of supporters, as emerges from the recent issue of the organization’s weekly. This is important for ISIS’s morale, taking into consideration the fact that in recent months, the organization’s activity dropped and it sustained painful blows in various regions around the world. If ISIS’s propaganda strikes roots, the organization is liable to increase the scope of its attacks in Iran.
 The Shah Cheragh (literally, “King of the Light”) shrine is a mausoleum where Ahmad bin Musa, the brother of the ninth imam of Twelver Shia Islam, Ali bin Musa Rida, is buried. It is the third most important shrine in Shia Islam in Iran and the most important place of pilgrimage within the city of Shiraz. According to Shiite belief, the tomb was discovered when light emanated from it (Wikipedia). ↑
 The attack in question was carried out in commemoration of the 38th anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq war. At least 25 people were killed and 60 were wounded, mostly Revolutionary Guard members. ↑