More than 100 killed in Iran blasts near Soleimani’s tomb during ceremony

Dozens of people have been killed and more than 100 others wounded in explosions near the tomb of former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) General Qassem Soleimani during a ceremony marking four years since his assassination.

Two explosions were heard in the southeastern city of Kerman on Wednesday afternoon near the burial place of Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike, according to Iranian media reports.

At least 103 people were killed in the blasts and 141 others wounded, according to Iranian state media and the emergency services.

It was not immediately clear what caused the blasts. Officials have blamed a “terrorist attack”.

Videos showed ambulances arriving at the scene and taking away injured people on stretchers. Kerman is about 820 kilometres (510 miles) southeast of the capital, Tehran.

“The number of people killed rose to 103 following the death of people injured during the terrorist explosions,” said official IRNA news agency.

Another 141 people were wounded in the bombings, IRNA said adding that some were in “critical condition”.

Mohammad Saberi, the head of Kerman’s emergency services, confirmed the toll.

Among those killed were three paramedics who rushed to the scene after the first explosion, said Iran’s Red Crescent.

Authorities told local media that some of the injured were being treated after being trampled in the pandemonium following the explosions.

Kerman security chief Rahman Jalali confirmed to state media that “the blasts were caused by terrorist attacks.”

The news agency Tasnim reported that two briefcases loaded with explosives were placed at the entrance of the cemetery and were then detonated remotely.

President Ebrahim Raisi condemned the “heinous” crime as the Islamic Republic of Iran declared Thursday a national day of mourning.

“Undoubtedly, the perpetrators … of this cowardly act will soon be identified and punished for their heinous act by the capable security and law enforcement forces,” said Raisi in a statement.

“The enemies of the nation should know that such actions can never disrupt the solid determination of the Iranian nation.”

Soleimani, previously the commander of the Quds Force of the IRGC and a key architect of Iran’s regional influence, was hit by a drone strike claimed by the United States shortly after touching down in Baghdad on January 3, 2020. Then-US President Donald Trump ordered Soleimani killed, saying he was planning an “imminent” attack on US military personnel in the Iraqi capital.

The incident comes a day after Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri was killed in a drone attack in Beirut, which Lebanese authorities attributed to Israel. Iran condemned the killing saying it could “ignite another surge in the veins of resistance and the motivation to fight against the Zionist occupiers”.

Last month, an Israeli air raid outside the Syrian capital of Damascus killed Sayyed Razi Mousavi, a senior adviser in IRGC.

The first explosion took place 700 metres (2,300 feet) from Soleimani’s grave; the second one kilometre (0.62 miles) away, suggesting that the explosive packages did not have to pass any security gates.

Videos have shown the general’s grave untouched, and the locations of the explosions do not appear to have been in the busiest parts of the cemetery.

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