At least 103 die in blast near tomb of Iranian general who was killed in US airstrike

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2024 20:26 | By
Vehicles on fire after twin blasts near the tomb of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. PHOTO/AP

At least 103 people have been killed by two bomb explosions near the tomb of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani on the fourth anniversary of his assassination by the US, Iran's state media report.

State broadcaster Irib said dozens more people were wounded when the blasts hit a procession near the Saheb al-Zaman mosque in the southern city of Kerman.

It cited Kerman's deputy governor as saying it was a "terrorist attack".

Videos showed bodies on a road and ambulances rushing to the scene.

It was not clear who was behind the explosions and there were no immediate claims from any groups.

But Arab separatists, Islamic State (IS) and other Sunni jihadist groups have said they have carried out deadly attacks on security forces and Shia shrines in the country in recent years.

Soleimani was seen as the most powerful figure in Iran after the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, before he was killed in a US drone strike in neighbouring Iraq in 2020.

Wednesday's incident comes amid heightened tensions in the region after the deputy leader of the Iran-backed Palestinian group, Hamas, was killed in an apparent Israeli drone strike in Lebanon.

Footage broadcast by state TV showed hundreds of people had gathered on the eastern outskirts of the general's hometown of Kerman when the two explosions took place.

Iranian media reported that the first reportedly occurred at 14:50 local time (11:20 GMT), about 700m (2,300ft) from the Garden of Martyrs cemetery around the Saheb al-Zaman mosque.

The second took place about 15 minutes later, around 1km away from the cemetery, they said.

The hard-line Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, cited sources as saying that "two bags carrying bombs" were apparently detonated "by remote control".

"We were walking towards the cemetery when a car suddenly stopped behind us and a waste bin containing a bomb exploded," a witness was quoted by Isna news agency as saying.
Map of Iran, showing location Kerman

"We only heard the sound of the explosion and saw people falling."

State media cited the local emergency services department as saying 103 people had been killed and another 141 wounded by the blasts. Some of the wounded were in a critical condition, they added.

The Iranian Red Crescent said the dead included at least one paramedic who was dispatched to the scene of the first explosion and was hit by the second.

Footage appeared to show that Soleimani's tomb was not damaged.

As commander of the Revolutionary Guards' overseas operations arm, the Quds Force, he was an architect of Iranian policy across the region.

He was in charge of the Quds Force's clandestine missions and its provision of guidance, funding, weapons, intelligence, and logistical support to allied governments and armed groups, including Hamas and Hezbollah.

Then-US President Donald Trump, who ordered the 2020 assassination, described Soleimani as "the number-one terrorist anywhere in the world".

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