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Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Alamy Stock Photo
Middle East

At least 103 people killed and 211 wounded in bombings in Iran at ceremony near general's grave

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed “evil and criminal enemies” of the country for the attack and vowed a “harsh response.”


TWIN BOMB BLASTS killed at least 103 people in Iran today, ripping through a crowd commemorating Revolutionary Guards general Qasem Soleimani four years after his death in a US strike, state media reported.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed “evil and criminal enemies” of the country for the attack and vowed a “harsh response.”

The two explosions – labelled a “terrorist attack” by state media and regional authorities – came amid high Middle East tensions over the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and the killing of a Hamas senior leader in Lebanon on Tuesday.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “strongly condemns” the unclaimed attacks.

Mohammad Jamshidi, a senior advisor to Iran’s president, blamed Israel and the United States, while the US said it looks like past attacks by ISIS.

“It does look like a terrorist attack, the kind of thing ISIS has done in the past, and that’s our ongoing assumption at the moment,” a senior Biden administration official told reporters.

The blasts, about 15 minutes apart, struck near the Martyrs Cemetery at the Saheb al-Zaman Mosque in Kerman, Soleimani’s southern hometown, as supporters gathered to mark his killing in a 2020 US drone strike in Baghdad.

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Official IRNA news agency said the number of dead rose to 103 while state television reported 211 wounded, some in critical condition.

Three paramedics who rushed to the scene after the first explosion were among those killed, said Iran’s Red Crescent.

IRNA said the first explosion took place around 700 metres from Soleimani’s grave while the other was around one kilometre away.

President Ebrahim Raisi condemned the “heinous” crime as the Islamic Republic of Iran declared Thursday a national day of mourning.

Tasnim news agency, quoting what it called informed sources, said “two bags carrying bombs went off” and “the perpetrators… apparently detonated the bombs by remote control”.

Online footage showed panicked crowds scrambling to flee as security personnel cordoned off the area.

‘Shocking cruelty’

State television showed bloodied victims lying on the ground and ambulances and rescue personnel racing to help them.

“We were walking towards the cemetery when a car suddenly stopped behind us and a waste bin containing a bomb exploded,” an eyewitness was quoted saying by the ISNA news agency.

“We only heard the explosion and saw people falling.”

By nightfall, crowds returned back the Martyrs Cemetery in Kerman chanting: “Death to Israel” and “Death to America”.

In Tehran, thousands gathered at the Grand Mosalla Mosque to pay tribute to Soleimani.

“We condemn today’s bitter terrorist incident… I hope the perpetrators of the crime will be identified and punished for their actions,” Soleimani’s daughter, Zeinab, said.

people-take-care-of-injured-after-an-explosion-in-kerman-iran-wednesday-jan-3-2024-explosions-at-an-event-honoring-a-prominent-iranian-general-slain-in-a-u-s-airstrike-in-2020-have-killed-at-le People take care of the injured after the explosion Alamy Alamy

Soleimani headed the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, overseeing military operations across the Middle East.

The twin blasts were denounced by the European Union, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Irad and Jordan.

“The EU condemns in the strongest terms today’s bombing… This act of terror has exacted a shocking toll of civilian deaths and injuries,” an EU statement said.

“The killing of peaceful people visiting the cemetery is shocking in its cruelty and cynicism,” Putin wrote to Raisi and Khamenei.

Iraq – where some 3,000 people gathered in Baghdad Tuesday to commemorate Soleimani – said it was ready to help “to alleviate the impact of this cowardly criminal act”.

The blasts came a day after Hamas number two Saleh al-Aruri — an Iran ally — was killed in a strike, which Lebanese officials blamed on Israel, on a southern Beirut suburb that is a stronghold of Iran-backed armed group Hezbollah.

Wednesday’s bomb blasts were Iran’s deadliest since a 1978 arson Cinema Rex attack in the southwestern city of Abadan, which killed at least 377 people, according to AFP archives.

Previous plots

Iran has long fought a shadow war of killings and sabotage with arch enemy Israel and also battled various jihadist and other militant groups.

In September, the Fars news agency reported that a key “operative” affiliated with the Islamic State group, in charge of carrying out “terrorist operations” in Iran, had been arrested in Kerman.

In July, Iran’s intelligence ministry said it had disbanded a network “linked to Israel’s spy organisation” which had been plotting “terrorist operations” across Iran, IRNA reported.

The alleged plots included “planning an explosion at the grave” of Soleimani, it said.

Soleimani, whom Khamenei years ago declared a “living martyr”, was widely regarded as a hero in Iran for his role in defeating IS in both Iraq and Syria.

Long seen as a deadly adversary by the United States and its allies, Soleimani was one of the most important powerbrokers across the region, setting Iran’s political and military agenda in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

© AFP 2024

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