It is a massacre of civilians of shocking proportions that has struck Iran, targeted by two explosions while tensions with the USA and Israel over the Middle Eastern conflict are at their peak. At least 103 people died and over 210 were injured along the road leading to the cemetery in Kerman, in the south-east of the country, while they went with thousands of other pilgrims to pay homage to the tomb of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Qods Force of the Pasdaran and number 1 enemy of the Jewish State, killed exactly four years ago in an American raid at Baghdad airport.
Iranian authorities speak of “terrorist” attack – so far not claimed by anyone – but they refrain from explicitly identifying a culprit. Attacks like this have already bloodied the country over the years and have been claimed by various groups: from ISIS to the separatists of Baluchistan, to the Arab ones in the south. The Israeli secret service Mossad has instead been accused by Tehran of targeted killings of nuclear scientists and military leaders both in Iran and abroad. The latest case is that of Seyed Razi Mousavi, a Pasdaran general shot dead on 25 December in Syria. The double explosion in Kerman also occurred the day after the attack in Beirut in which Hamas number 2 Saleh al-Arouri was killed.
But to reject any suspicion of a possible hand of Israel in today’s massacre, the Americans intervened immediately: «There is no independent information on what happened in Iran, it is too early to make assessments but we have no reason to think that Israel is involved», said the spokesperson of the US State Department, Matthew Miller, also excluding any involvement of the Use in the episode.
The “hateful criminals” behind the double attack in Kerman will have a “severe response” and “just punishment”, said Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, generically accusing those he defined as “the diabolical enemies of the Iranian nation”. President Ebrahim Raisi – who canceled tomorrow’s planned visit to Turkey – said that the culprits will be “soon identified and punished” and that “the enemies of the nation must know that these actions can never break the solid determination of the Iranian nation ». The Iranian response will be “strong and destructive and in the shortest possible time”, warned the Interior Minister, Ahmad Vahidi, underlining however that investigations are still underway to identify the culprits. The minister said that most of the victims died in the second explosion, when people rushed to help those injured in the first. The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, “strongly condemned” the attack.
Even the EU has stigmatized “with the utmost firmness” this “act of terror” and expressed his “solidarity with the Iranian people”. The reaction of Russian President Vladimir Putin was also very harsh, even if more obvious given the closeness to Iran, according to which “the killings of civilians while visiting a cemetery are shocking for their cruelty and cynicism”. “We strongly condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reaffirm our commitment to fight this evil without compromise,” Putin added. For his part, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was “deeply saddened by the atrocious terrorist attack”.
The figure of Soleimani, meanwhile, was also commemorated in Iraq by thousands of people who gathered in the holy Shiite city of Najaf. While a solemn ceremony took place at Baghdad airport in the presence of the prime minister, Muhammad Sudani, who received the families of the ten victims of the American attack: in addition to Soleimani, four other Pasdaran officers and the leaders of Iraqi militias supported by ‘Iran. Even the leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah, Hasan Nasrallah, in a speech in Beirut paid homage to the head of the Qods Force killed by the Americans, stating in a speech that «the successes of Hamas from the Gaza Strip are due to the work carried out for years by Qasem Soleimani.”