Two separate blasts occurred in Iran on Wednesday, just minutes apart. The explosions were aimed at an event honoring a well-known military leader who was killed in a U.S. drone attack last year. The attacks resulted in the deaths of at least 103 individuals and injured at least 141 others. Tensions in the Middle East continue to run high due to Israel’s ongoing conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
No specific group has taken responsibility for the attack, which Iranian state media has labeled as “terroristic.” The explosions occurred in Kerman, approximately 510 miles southeast of the capital city, Tehran.
Although Israel has launched strikes against Iran due to its nuclear development, they have specifically targeted individuals rather than causing widespread harm through bombings. In the past, Sunni extremist organizations such as ISIS have been responsible for major attacks that resulted in civilian casualties in predominantly Shiite Iran, but this has not occurred in the relatively peaceful city of Kerman.
In 2022, Mahsa Amini will be targeted by exile groups in attacks dating back to the turmoil surrounding Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The explosions occurred during a ceremony commemorating four years since the deaths of four children.
In January 2020, Qasem Soleimani, leader of the elite Quds Force in the Revolutionary Guard, was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Iraq. Explosions were reported near his burial site in Kerman.
A spokesperson for Iran’s emergency services, Babak Yektaparast, reported the number of casualties on state television. It was also reported that some individuals sustained injuries while attempting to escape.
The video footage indicated that the second explosion happened approximately 15 minutes after the initial one. It is a common tactic for terrorists to stage a delayed second blast in order to harm emergency responders and cause additional harm.
The state TV footage captured the sounds of people screaming.
According to Rahman Jalali, the deputy governor of Kerman, the attack was described as “terroristic,” but no further details were given. Iran has various adversaries that may have been responsible for the attack, such as groups in exile, militant groups, and government actors. Iran has provided assistance to Hamas, as well as the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
During a press conference on Wednesday, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, Matthew Miller, stated that it is premature to determine the source of the explosions. He also emphasized that the United States was not implicated in any way and any insinuation to the contrary is absurd.
The speaker stated that there is no evidence to suggest Israel’s involvement in the explosion.
A high-ranking member of the administration was questioned about whether the U.S. had identified the party responsible for the Iran bombing. The official responded to reporters by saying, “It appears to be a terrorist attack, similar to what we have seen ISIS carry out in the past.”
Soleimani was the architect of Iran’s regional military activities and is hailed as a national icon among supporters of Iran’s theocracy. He also helped secure Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government after the 2011 Arab Spring protests against him turned into a civil, and later a regional, war that still rages today.
Soleimani was not well-known in Iran until the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. However, his reputation and allure increased when American officials targeted him for assassination due to his involvement in supplying militants with powerful roadside bombs that caused casualties among U.S. soldiers.
After fifteen years, Soleimani had emerged as the prominent battlefield leader of Iran, disregarding suggestions to participate in politics but gaining immense influence, possibly even more than its civilian leadership.
In the end, a military attack carried out by the Trump administration resulted in the death of the general, as part of a series of increasing conflicts that occurred after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear agreement with other global powers in 2018.
The passing of Soleimani has led to significant gatherings in previous years. During his 2020 funeral, a crowd gathered in Kerman and a stampede occurred, resulting in the death of at least 56 individuals and injuries to over 200 as thousands attended the funeral procession. Despite the ongoing turmoil and violence in Iran, the city and province of Kerman have remained relatively unaffected. Located in the central desert plateau of Iran, this city and province share the same name.
Olivia Gazis provided coverage from the State Department.