Iran: At least 95 killed in 'terrorist attacks' near top commander Soleimani's tomb during ceremony

State television reported a first and then a second explosion during the ceremony in the southeastern city of Kerman

By Reuters

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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Wed 3 Jan 2024, 4:45 PM

Last updated: Thu 4 Jan 2024, 7:53 AM

[Editor's note: This article has been edited on January 4 to reflect the latest death toll, revised down from the earlier number of 103]

Two explosions caused by 'terrorist attacks' killed at least 95 people and wounded scores at a ceremony in Iran to commemorate top commander Qassem Soleimani who was killed by a US drone in 2020, Iranian officials said on Wednesday.

Iranian state television reported a first and then a second blast during an anniversary event at the cemetery where Soleimani is buried in the southeastern city of Kerman.

An unnamed official told the state news agency IRNA that "Two explosive devices planted along the road leading to Kerman's Martyrs' Cemetery were detonated remotely by terrorists".

Iran's official IRNA news agency initially reported 103 people were killed while state television said 211 were wounded, some in critical condition.

Health minister Bahram Eynollahi later revised the toll, saying: "The exact number of the people killed in the terrorist incident is 95".

He said the reason for the earlier figure of 103 was that some names "were wrongly registered twice".

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Videos aired by Iranian media showed dozens of bodies strewn around with some bystanders trying to attend to survivors and others hurrying to leave the blast area.

"A terrible sound was heard there, despite all the security and safety measures. We are still investigating," Reza Fallah, head of the Kerman Red Crescent Society, told state television.

Red Crescent rescuers tended to wounded people at the ceremony, where hundreds of Iranians had gathered to mark the anniversary of Soleimani's death. Some Iranian news agencies said the number of wounded people was much higher.

"We are now evacuating the wounded and injured in the area. The crowd is huge and the job is quite hard all the paths to there are blocked," Fallah said.

The US assassination of Soleimani in a drone attack at Baghdad airport and Tehran's retaliation by attacking two Iraq military bases that house US troops brought the United States and Iran close to full-blown conflict in 2020.

As chief commander of the elite Quds force, the overseas arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Soleimani ran clandestine operations in foreign countries and was a key figure in Iran's long-standing campaign to drive U.S. forces out of the Middle East.

Tensions between Iran and Israel, along with its ally the United States, have reached a new high over Israel's war on Hamas militants in Gaza in retaliation for their October 7 rampage through southern Israel.

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi militia have attacked ships they say have links to Israel in the entrance to the Red Sea, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

US forces have come under attack by Iran-backed militants in Iraq and Syria over Washington's backing of Israel and have carried out their own retaliatory air strikes.

On Monday an Israeli airstrike killed a senior leader of Iran's Revolutionary Guards in Syria.

Iran has in the past blamed Israel for attacks on individual people or places within its borders - claims which Israel has neither confirmed nor denied - but there was no indication of any foreign involvement in the explosions at Wednesday's ceremony.

(With inputs from AFP)

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