Updated Jan 3, 2024 - World

Iran: Scores killed in blasts near ceremony honoring slain commander Soleimani

Emergency services respond to Wednesday's attack in Kerman.

Emergency services respond to Wednesday's attack in Kerman. Photo: Tasnim News/AFP via Getty Images

More than 80 people were killed on Wednesday in two explosions near a ceremony honoring a top Iranian commander killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020, Iranian state media reported, citing an emergency services official.

The big picture: No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosions, but Iranian officials said they were investigating the blasts as a terrorist attack. The attack comes as tensions grow in the region.

  • Iranian officials said Iran's security forces will respond swiftly against those responsible for the attack.
  • "Undoubtedly, the perpetrators and masterminds of this cowardly act will soon be identified and brought to justice by the capable security and law enforcement forces," Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said.
  • An earlier death toll of 103 given by authorities was revised down to 84 after officials realized some of the names of those killed had been repeated.

What happened: The blasts took place as hundreds gathered at an anniversary ceremony at the cemetery where Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who was the head of the Revolutionary Guard's elite Quds Force, is buried.

  • The death toll was expected to rise, an emergency services official told state TV. More than 280 people were wounded.
  • According to state media, many were killed or wounded during the second explosion after gathering to help following the initial blast.

Context: Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike ordered by the Trump administration near the Baghdad airport four years ago.

  • He was a highly revered figure in Iran. But to many others, he was seen as the mastermind behind Iran's network of proxy militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen, which were behind numerous attacks against the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East.

What they're saying: State Department spokesperson Mathew Miller said on Wednesday the U.S. wasn't involved in the explosion in Iran and has no reason to believe that Israel was involved.

Zoom out: The explosions took place amid rising tensions in the region, especially after Tuesday's strike blamed on Israel in Beirut that killed a senior Hamas official.

  • Israeli officials have not publicly claimed responsibility, but U.S. and Israeli officials told Axios the country was behind the Tuesday strike.
  • That attack has raised concerns that the war in Gaza, which began nearly three months ago following the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack against Israel, could lead to a wider regional war.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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