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3 Jan, 2024 14:06

Almost 100 killed in 'terror attack' at memorial to Iranian general

Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike on this day in 2020
Almost 100 killed in 'terror attack' at memorial to Iranian general

At least 95 people have been killed and over 200 injured by two explosions that ripped through a memorial to mark the fourth anniversary of the death of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Iran’s south-central city of Kerman on Wednesday, according to media reports.

The blasts reportedly occurred close to the grave site of the former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander. Iranian media noted that officials at the scene have described the incident as a terrorist attack, and that two bags containing bombs are thought to have exploded in a crowded area, having been remotely detonated.

An earlier death toll of 103 was revised lower after duplicate names were found on a list of victims, according to Iran's health minister Bahram Einollahi.

Video footage of the aftermath of the incident circulating on social media shows injured people at the scene being attended to by medics and being removed on stretchers.

“Our rapid response teams are evacuating the injured,” Reza Fallah, head of Kerman’s Red Crescent humanitarian group, told Iranian television, according to Al Jazeera. He added that rescue operations were hampered by “waves of crowds blocking roads.”

Soleimani, a revered figure in Iran, was killed in a US drone strike authorized by former US President Donald Trump in Baghdad, Iraq on January 3, 2020. Trump later said that he had ordered the US military operation in response to intelligence that claimed that Soleimani was planning an “imminent” attack on US forces in the Iraqi capital.

The incident in Kerman comes one day after a senior Hamas figure, Saleh al-Arouri, was killed in a drone strike in Lebanon. Iran condemned the attack, saying that it could potentially “ignite another surge in the veins of resistance and the motivation to fight against the Zionist occupiers.”

The explosions are reported to have been separated by periods of about ten to 15 minutes. The first occurred about 700 meters (less than half a mile) from Soleimani’s tomb at the Golzar Shohada cemetery in Kerman. The second was about a kilometer (0.6 miles) away, the Guardian said.

The cemetery, otherwise known as the Garden of Martyrs, is a resting place for more than 1,000 people considered to be martyrs. The site has become known as a pilgrimage destination for supporters of the “axis of resistance” against the US and the West. Footage appears to show that Soleimani’s tomb was not damaged in the attack.

The identities of those behind the explosions – or their motivations – are not yet known. However, Kianush Jahanpur, the former spokesman for Iran’s health ministry, has suggested on social media that “the answer to this crime should only be in Tel Aviv, Haifa.”

Iran had in recent days said it had executed four persons that it said were linked to Israel’s Mossad intelligence services.