Iran holds day of mourning after twin blasts kill more than 80 people

More than 280 people were wounded in the attacks that took place at a memorial for slain Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

Iran blast
People gather at the scene of explosions during a ceremony held to mark the death anniversary of former IRGC General Qassem Soleimani in Kerman, Iran, January 3, 2024 [West Asia News Agency via Reuters]

Iranians have observed a day of mourning after twin bombings in the city of Kerman killed and wounded many people at a memorial for top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani four years after his assassination, raising tensions in the region.

At least 84 people were killed in the blasts, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said on Thursday, according to state news agency IRNA.

An earlier death toll of 103 was twice revised down after officials realised some names had been repeated on the victims’ list, and because bodies had been dismembered and counted “several times”, said Jafar Miadfar, the head of Iran’s emergency services.

More than 280 people were wounded in Wednesday’s attacks, with 195 still in hospital.

The ISIL (ISIS) armed group claimed responsibility for the bombings in a statement on Thursday.

The group said on its official Telegram channel that two of its members “activated their explosives vests” at the gathering near Soleimani’s grave.

It was the deadliest attack to target Iran since its 1979 Islamic revolution.

The blasts struck minutes apart, shaking Kerman, about 820km (510 miles) southeast of the capital, Tehran. The second blast sent shrapnel into a screaming crowd fleeing the first explosion.

People disperse near the site where two explosions in quick succession struck a crowd marking the anniversary of the 2020 killing of Guards general Qasem Soleimani, near the Saheb al-Zaman Mosque in the southern Iranian city of Kerman
People disperse near the site where two blasts in quick succession struck a crowd marking the anniversary of the 2020 killing of Qassem Soleimani in the southern Iranian city of Kerman [Mehr News/AFP]

The commemoration marked the fourth anniversary of the killing of Soleimani, the head of the elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), in a US drone strike in Iraq ordered by then-President Donald Trump. The blasts took place near his gravesite as long lines of people gathered for the event.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who cancelled his planned trip to Turkey, declared Thursday as a national day of mourning to pay respect to those killed in the bombings.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed “evil and criminal enemies” of the country for the attack and pledged a “harsh response”.

“These hard-hearted criminals could not tolerate the love and enthusiasm the people had to visit the shrine of their great commander, Qassem Soleimani,” Khamenei said in a statement.

“Let them know that the soldiers of … Soleimani will not tolerate their vileness and crimes.”

The United Nations, European Union, and several countries, including China, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Germany and Iraq, denounced the bombings.

The attacks came a day after the killing of Saleh al-Arouri, a deputy leader of the Palestinian armed group Hamas, an ally of Iran, in a drone strike in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, raising fears of further escalation in the region following the start of Israel’s war in Gaza on October 7.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies