DUBAI – Two explosions caused by 'terrorist attacks' killed at least 103 people and wounded many others at a ceremony in Iran to commemorate top commander Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by a U.S. drone in 2020, Iranian officials announced on Wednesday.
Iranian state television reported a first and then a second blast during an anniversary event at the cemetery where Soleimani is buried in the southeastern city of Kerman.
An unnamed official told the state news agency IRNA: "Two explosive devices planted along the road leading to Kerman's Martyrs' Cemetery were detonated remotely by terrorists."
Babak Yektaparast, a spokesperson for Iran's emergency services, initially reported that 73 people had been killed and 170 injured. State television later reported that at least 100 people had been killed.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Video footage aired by Iranian media showed dozens of bodies strewn, with some bystanders trying to attend to survivors and others hurrying to leave the blast area.
"A terrible sound was heard there, despite all the security and safety measures. We are still investigating," Reza Fallah, head of the Kerman Red Crescent Society, told state television.
Red Crescent rescuers tended to the wounded at the ceremony, where hundreds of Iranians had gathered to mark the anniversary of Soleimani's death. Some Iranian news agencies reported the number of wounded was much higher.
"We are now evacuating the wounded and injured in the area. The crowd is huge and the job is quite hard all the paths to there are blocked," Fallah said.
The U.S. assassination of Soleimani in a drone attack at Baghdad airport and Tehran's retaliation by attacking two Iraq military bases that were housing U.S. troops brought the United States and Iran close to full-blown conflict in 2020.
As chief commander of the elite Quds force, the overseas arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Soleimani ran clandestine operations in foreign countries and was a key figure in Iran's long-standing campaign to drive U.S. forces out of the Middle East.
Tensions between Iran and Israel, along with its ally the United States, have reached a new high since Israel's war on Iranian-backed Hamas militants in Gaza in retaliation for their Oct. 7 rampage through southern Israel.
Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi militia have been attacking ships at the entrance to the Red Sea, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, that they say have links to Israel.
American forces have come under attack by Iran-backed militants in Iraq and Syria over Washington's backing of Israel and have carried out their own retaliatory air strikes.
On Monday, an Israeli airstrike eliminated a senior leader of IRGC in Syria.
Iran has, in the past, blamed Israel for attacks on individual people or places within its borders - claims which Israel has neither confirmed nor denied - but there was no indication of any foreign involvement in the explosions during Wednesday's ceremony.