Biden Admin Says US, Israel Not Behind Iran Blast As Death Toll Surpasses 100

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Jan 04, 2024 - 11:11 AM

Update(1405ET): The death toll in Kerman city has risen to at least 103 killed, and over 141 injured, with new details being revealed in state-backed IRNA news as follows: "The first blast took place 700 meters away from Martyr General Qassem Soleimani’s tomb and the second explosion happened one kilometer away from it." Other sources are saying there were well over 170 injuries in the aftermath. "The explosions dispersed mourners from Kerman’s cemetery and ambulances rushed to deliver the injured to hospitals in the city," the report continues. This was among the single deadliest attacks in all of Iranian history.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi didn't single out any country of its intelligence services for being behind the attack, but said, "the perpetrators and criminals who were involved in this terrorist crime will soon be identified and punished for their actions."

However, some top Iranian officials did quickly point the finger at Israel and the US. This prompted a quick rejection of the allegation by the Biden administration, which also sought to distance Israel from the mass casualty event too:

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the U.S. had no reason to believe that Israel was involved in the explosion, and added, “the United States was not involved in any way, and any suggestion to the contrary is ridiculous.”

Ayatollah Ali Ali Khamenei also did not specify any country potentially behind the major attack on the memorial event. "The enemies should know that, with God's permission, perpetrators of this tragedy will be met with a strong response," he posted to X.

According to an afternoon press briefing by US national security council spokesman John Kirby (via RTRS):

  • White House says the US does not have detail on the Iran bombing; US has no indication Israel was involved in the Iran blast
  • White House says US will continue to maintain a significant force presence in the middle east; US will not shrink from defending US interests and free flow of international commerce
  • Actions in the Red Sea directly threaten freedom of navigation.

* * *

Update(0845ET): Iranian state media has confirmed that more that 70 were killed in two "terrorist attacks" at the cemetery where memorial anniversary events for the slain IRGC General Qassem Soleimani were being held in the southern city of Kerman.

"Babak Yektaparast, a spokesperson for Iran's emergency services, told state media that 73 people had been killed and 170 injured," according to Sky News. Wednesday marked the four-year anniversary of Soleimani's assassination.

Iran is meanwhile vowing to "punish the perpetrators of the Kerman explosions" according to state media.

* * *

Two explosions close in time to one another ripped through a cemetery in the southern Iranian city of Kerman on Wednesday, killing scores of people and injuring over 15 others. The initial death toll of 20 was been quickly revised upward, with Reuters and Sky News subsequently reporting, "At least 50 people have been killed at a cemetery in Iran where a ceremony was being held to mark the 2020 assassination of Iran's top commander Qassem Soleimani, an official has told Reuters news agency."

Large crowds had been gathered near the grave of IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani a day of memorial events marking his death anniversary. The semi-official Nournews initially described that "several gas canisters exploded on the road leading to the cemetery and relevant authorities are monitoring the situation".

Videos from the scene show chaos after the two explosions sent people running, which appear to number in the tens of thousands.

A correspondent with Iranian state-run Tasnim has said that the mounting casualty count is "high". He's been cited as saying, "There is a strong chance that more 50 people have lost their lives and 50-60 have been injured."

Scenes from blast aftermath at the crowded cemetery...

According to more details via Al Jazeera:

Iranian state media says two explosions have struck a procession marking the anniversary of General Qassem Soleimani’s assassination. The blasts reportedly happened near the slain commander’s gravesite in the city of Kerman.

And very quickly in the aftermath, as casualties are still being rushed to the hospital, an Iranian official has been quoted in state media as saying the blasts in Kerman city were "terrorist attacks".

This couldn't come at a worse time and appears possibly connected with events in Gaza as the region already stands on the brink of a major regional war.

Yesterday Israel assassinated the deputy head of Hamas in a drone strike on southern Beirut, and Hezbollah's Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah is still set to give a major speech later today.

Soleimani was killed on January 3, 2020 when his convoy left Baghdad International Airport. The strike was ordered by then President Trump and likely had the assistance of Israeli intelligence. It was considered essentially an act of war by Tehran, which then lobbed dozens of ballistic missiles onto US bases in Iraq, resulting in Americans injured.