103 Reported Killed in Iran in Blasts Near Qassim Suleimani’s Tomb

103 Reported Killed in Iran in Blasts Near Qassim Suleimani’s Tomb

A pair of explosions on Wednesday at a commemoration for Iran’s former top military general Qassim Suleimani killed at least 103 people and wounded another 171, according to Iranian officials. The blasts sowed fear and grief in Iran and heightened tensions in the broader region even further a day after an explosion killed several Hamas officials in a suburb of Beirut, Lebanon.

Iranian officials told state media that a pair of bombs placed in bags along the road toward the cemetery in Kerman, Iran, had exploded as a procession of people was on its way there to commemorate the four-year anniversary of General Suleimani’s assassination by the United States. The officials said the bags appeared to have been detonated via remote control, leaving bodies in pieces on the ground.

Given the sheer scale of the blasts, which state media described as a terrorist attack, the death toll was likely to rise.

Videos and photos of the explosions’ aftermath on state media showed widespread carnage and chaos, with sirens blaring and the injured — among them children — collapsing to the ground. Bloodied, several of the wounded screamed, “God help us. Everyone is killed.”

Just before the explosions, videos showed a dense crowd of thousands walking along a road lined with food and drink stalls and flags as a prayer from the Quran played from speakers. Then a huge blast rocked the area. The air filled with screams, and people scattered in all directions, videos showed.

“Unfortunately many of the injured people are in critical condition,” said Babak Yektaparast, the spokesman for the country’s emergency relief operations. He said all medical facilities in the province of Kerman were on standby to treat patients and emergency airplanes were being deployed for medical evacuations to hospitals in Tehran.

The head of Iran’s judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, said all the country’s intelligence, security and military organs were being enlisted to determine who was behind the explosions.

Iran’s interior minister, Ahmad Vahidi, told state television that most of the casualties were from the second explosion, which followed minutes after the first, as crowds had gathered to help the injured. He said the situation in the city of Kerman was now under the control of security and military.

“We will God willingly deliver a big slap to those responsible for this terrorist attack,” said Mr. Vahidi. “They are mistaken to think our resolve will be broken by such cowardly attacks.”

The explosions came four years after an American drone strike assassinated General Suleimani, the longtime commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ powerful Quds Force, at Baghdad airport.

General Suleimani had been hailed in Iran and in parts of the wider region as a hero for building and arming a Tehran-led network of regional proxy militias that countered the United States and Israel across the Middle East, and he continues to enjoy near-mythic status among pro-government Iranians. His funeral in 2020 drew more than a million mourners, according to official estimates. Every year, on the anniversary of his assassination, some Iranians hold processions and ceremonies in his honor.

By cultivating close personal ties with the leaders of partners across the region, the Arabic-speaking General Suleimani became the face of Iran’s Shiite axis of influence, which reshaped Middle East geopolitics for years to come. The Syrian and Iraqi militias he helped establish also played a critical role in defeating the Islamic State, the extremist group that overran large swathes of Syria and Iraq in the mid-2010s.

The regional allies General Suleimani armed and funded also included Hamas, the military and political group that controls Gaza, as well as Hezbollah, the armed political party that dominates much of Lebanon. Hezbollah has been clashing with Israeli forces on Lebanon’s southern border even as Hamas battles Israel in Gaza.

The identities of those who died in Iran on Wednesday were not yet known.

Some Iranians on social media were blaming the government and local security officials for failing to secure such a high-profile event. During the funeral ceremony for General Suleimani in 2020, a stampede along the same road as Wednesday’s explosions killed 60 people.

Leily Nikounazar contributed reporting.

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Kyle C. Garrison

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