Blasts kill nearly 100 at slain commander Soleimani's memorial
Twin explosions disrupted a memorial service in Iran on Wednesday, killing nearly 100 people and injuring many. The service commemorated Qassem Soleimani, a commander killed in a 2020 U.S. drone strike.
Iranian authorities, labeling the incident a terrorist attack, have yet to identify the perpetrators.
The blasts, striking during the crowded fourth-anniversary event at Soleimani's burial site in Kerman, southeastern Iran, were reported by Iranian state television. A second explosion followed the first by 20 minutes.
The Biden administration condemned the attacks, noting similarities to previous Islamic State actions. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei promised a forceful response to these "inhumane crimes."
Bahram Eynollahi, Iran's Health Minister, revised the death toll to 95 from an initial count of 103, marking it as the Islamic Republic's deadliest attack. Iran has faced threats from various groups, including the Islamic State.
No group has claimed responsibility yet. U.S. officials, addressing the incident, denied any Israeli involvement, a frequent accusation by Iran. An Iranian official told IRNA that the explosives were remotely detonated.
State media footage showed the aftermath of the blasts, including rescue efforts by Iran's Red Crescent. Reza Fallah, head of the Kerman Red Crescent Society, highlighted the unexpected nature of the attack despite heightened security.
Esmail Qaani, a top Iranian commander, accused "agents of Israel and the United States" of orchestrating the attack. Tehran often blames these nations for backing anti-Iranian groups. Chants against America and Israel echoed among crowds at the cemetery.
The U.S. State Department firmly denied any involvement in the incident. Iran's foreign ministry vowed to pursue justice through international channels, while President Raisi postponed his scheduled visit to Turkey.
The Turkish government swiftly condemned the attacks, reiterating its stance against terrorism in all its forms. Ankara emphasized the need for regional cooperation to combat such threats, highlighting its readiness to support efforts to maintain peace and security in the Middle East.