Syria: Iran’s Kanaani Blames Foreign Intervention for Islamic State Escalation

As many as 40 Damascus soldiers killed in Friday attack

Per Syrian state media, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani condemned a Friday Islamic State attack on a Syrian military bus (other sources claim the target consisted of two trucks), which resulted in the deaths of at least 20 government soldiers. Kanaani claimed that recent escalations in IS violence are “the result of the continuation of intelligence, security and logistical support for the terrorists that are provided by some countries with the purpose of undermining stability, calm and security in Syria.”

Claims vary as to the total casualty count. The Associated Press cites the (UK-based) Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as putting the death toll at 33, with the Islamic State claiming 40 killed and 10 wounded. The attack took place in Deir el-Zour province.

The Islamic State’s avowed caliphate lost control of its last formally claimed territory to a US-backed Kurdish offensive in 2019, but its “sleeper cells” continue to conduct attacks on both civilian and Syrian military targets including, earlier this year, massacres of truffle hunters in the Palmyra area.

The group also announced a change in leadership last week, and new “caliph” Abu Hafs al-Hashimi al-Quraishi may be attempting to make his mark with an increased tempo of operations.

The fourth “caliph,” Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Qurayshi, supposedly died in April when, according to Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he blew himself up during a Turkish raid on his safe house. The Islamic state announced his death in early August, but said he died in combat with a Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate.