On the fourth anniversary of the supposed US assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, two bomb blasts close to his tomb have killed at least ninety-five people, according to Iran’s official media. When the explosions struck a procession in the vicinity of the Saheb al-Zaman mosque in Kerman, several more people were hurt.
As people gathered to mark the fourth anniversary of General Soleimani’s assassination—he was the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force—who was killed in an American drone strike in Iraq in January 2020, they were caught in the explosions. The explosions happened close to his grave in Kerman, which is located roughly 510 miles (820 kilometers) southeast of Tehran, the capital of Iran.
Rahman Jalali, the deputy governor of Kerman, described the attack as “terroristic,” even though no one has yet claimed responsibility for it. The number of fatalities might increase because a number of the injured are in serious condition. The explosions reportedly occurred fifteen minutes apart.
A shrine honoring the assassinated leader Soleimani is located 700 meters from the site of the first explosion, according to reports from the Tasnim news agency, which is connected to the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Cops), the main branch of the Iranian Armed Forces. The second explosion occurred outside the pilgrims’ path and inspection gates, one kilometer from the shrine.
The majority of the victims perished in the second explosion, according to Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi, who also promised that the government would respond to the bombings “quickly and forcefully.” Additionally, he declared, “Our police forces are on guard and will bring those responsible for this crime to justice.”
Notably, Qasem Soleimani oversaw the Quds force, the Iranian branch in charge of covert and extraterritorial military operations. On January 3, 2020, a drone strike carried out by the USA killed him.
Given the increased tensions in the Middle East resulting from the Israel-Hamas war and the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, this most recent attack assumes particular significance given that Iran funds both Hamas and the Houthis.
Iran has been fighting various jihadist and other militant groups in addition to its long-running shadow war of sabotage and killings with its arch-enemy, Israel. A prominent “operative” connected to the Islamic State organization, responsible for executing “terrorist operations” in Iran, was apprehended in Kerman in September, according to a report by the Fars news agency.
Iran’s intelligence ministry announced in July that it had broken up a network that was “linked to Israel’s spy organization” and was preparing “terrorist operations” throughout the country, according to IRNA.
It stated that one of the purported plots involved “planning an explosion at the grave” of Soleimani. Soleimani was considered a hero in Iran for his role in defeating IS in both Iraq and Syria. Khamenei had referred to him as a “living martyr” years prior.