Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has vowed revenge against the ‘evil and criminal enemies’ responsible for the deadliest attack in the Islamic Republic’s history after two bombs were detonated near a cemetery.
Nearly 100 people were killed and more than 200 wounded after two blasts rocked a ceremony that was being held to mark the 2020 assassination of Iran‘s top commander Qassem Soleimani in a US drone attack.
The first explosion was quickly followed by a second close to a cemetery in the southeastern city of Kerman where thousands had gathered to mark the four-year anniversary of Soleimani’s killing.
Harrowing video showed scores of bloodied victims lying on the floor as others stumbled away from the blast scene close to the Saheb al-Zaman Mosque where Soleimani is buried, in what Iran has described as a ‘terrorist attack’.
‘The evil and criminal enemies of the Iranian nation once again created a disaster and martyred a large number of dear people in Kerman,’ Khamenei said in a statement. ‘This disaster will have a harsh response, God willing.’ He did not name a suspect, nor has any group yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
While Iranian authorities did not publicly assign blame for Tuesday’s bombings, the top commander of Iran’s Quds force Esmail Qaani declared, without evidence, that the attacks were carried out by ‘the agents of the Zionist regime (Israel) and the United States’.
There is no evidence that Tuesday’s attack was authored by Tel-Aviv, and its chief ally the United States has tonight said it has ‘no reason’ to believe Israel was behind it. The US state department added that it would be ‘ridiculous’ to suggest Washington was involved.
Israel has carried out attacks in Iran over its nuclear programme, but these have been targeted assassinations rather than mass-casualty bombings. Sunni extremist groups, including Islamic State, have conducted large-scale attacks in the past that killed civilians in Shiite-majority Iran, though not in relatively peaceful Kerman.