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Iran says twin blasts near Soleimani's burial site kill 95

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-01-04 08:53
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People gather at the scene of explosions during a ceremony held to mark the death of late Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, in Kerman, Iran, Jan 3, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

TEHRAN - Two explosions near the burial site of Iran's slain general Qassem Soleimani killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 210 others on Wednesday, reported local media.

The blasts occurred as many people gathered at the cemetery in Iran's southeastern city of Kerman to mark the fourth anniversary of Soleimani's death in a US drone strike.

The first blast was about 700 meters from Soleimani's tomb and the second was a kilometer away, according to the official IRNA news agency.

Rahman Jalali, the deputy governor of Kerman province for political and security affairs, said the explosions were carried out by "terrorists", the IRNA reported.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network said the cause of the blasts was still under investigation and that rescue teams were at the scene. It added that most of the injuries were caused by overcrowding and panic.

The Iranian government has declared Thursday a day of national mourning.

Soleimani, one of the most powerful military commanders in Iran, was killed on Jan 3, 2020, near Baghdad's international airport in a drone strike ordered by then-US President Donald Trump.

He was buried in his hometown of Kerman after a funeral that drew millions of mourners across Iran. Iran denounced the assassination as "state terrorism" and vowed revenge.

Following the latest incident, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said the attackers will face "a harsh response". Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said that, "Undoubtedly, the perpetrators and leaders of this cowardly act will soon be identified and punished."

US officials, meanwhile, rejected any suggestion that it or its ally Israel was behind the deadly blasts.

"The United States was not involved in any way. And the suggestion to the contrary is ridiculous. And No 2, we have no reason to believe that Israel is involved in this," Department of State spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters Wednesday.

The United Nations, European Union, and several countries including Russia, Türkiye, and Germany denounced the blasts.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack in the strongest possible terms and said those responsible must be brought to justice, according to a statement issued by the UN chief's office.

In a phone call with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell strongly condemned the deadly incident, and extended condolences to the victims' families and the Iranian government and people, wishing a speedy recovery for the injured.

According to a statement from the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin had sent a message to Khamenei and Raisi, saying that Russia strongly condemns terrorism in all forms and reaffirms its commitment to the uncompromising fight against it.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a phone call with Raisi, condemned the twin attacks "targeting civilians", reiterating his call for Iran to act jointly in the fight against terrorism.

It was also decided at the phone talk to postpone Raisi's visit to Turkiye, originally scheduled for Thursday, "to a later date", said Erdogan's office, which was also confirmed by Mohammad Jamshidi, the Iranian president's deputy chief of staff for political affairs.

"We are deeply saddened by the many deaths in today's explosions in Kerman, including many children," Germany's Foreign Ministry wrote on social media platform X. "We condemn this act of terror."

The people of Iran deserve a future in peace and security, the ministry added.

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