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May 19, 2024

ISIS Claims Responsibility for Deadly Twin Bombings at Soleimani Memorial in Iran

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Jan 5, 2024

At least 84 people were killed and over 200 injured in twin suicide bombings that struck a memorial ceremony in Iran on Thursday for Qassem Soleimani, the senior Iranian military commander killed by a U.S. drone strike two years ago. The Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks.

Background

On January 3, 2020, top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike authorized by then-President Donald Trump. Soleimani headed the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and was revered as a heroic national figure in Iran. His death brought Iran and the United States close to war.

To commemorate the second anniversary of Soleimani’s death on January 3, 2024, tens of thousands of people gathered at the cemetery in his hometown of Kerman, in southeastern Iran, where he is buried.

The Attacks

At around 10:30 a.m. local time, as dignitaries addressed the large crowd that had assembled for the memorial event, two explosions went off that were described by Iran’s state media as suicide bombings.

The first blast erupted near the stage, causing chaos and confusion. Moments later, a second more powerful explosion occurred outside the cemetery gates as panicked mourners were trying to flee.

Graphic footage of the aftermath showed dozens of bloodied victims strewn around the site. Bodies filled body bags lined up on the ground, and the walking wounded were covered in blood as they staggered through the streets.

At least 84 people were killed, including children, women and elderly attendees. Over 200 more were injured. Among the casualties were senior IRGC commanders and local officials.

Iran’s Interior Minister Rahmani Fazli called it a “heinous crime” and stated that “terrorists and Takfiris did this”. Iran uses the term “Takfiri” to refer to radical Sunni Muslim militants like ISIS.

ISIS Claims Attack

Several hours after the twin explosions, ISIS officially claimed responsibility for carrying out the suicide bombings via its Amaq News Agency.

In a statement, ISIS said its “soldiers of the caliphate” had succeeded in planting explosive belts at the packed memorial ceremony for Soleimani. It described the attacks as revenge against Iran for supporting militias fighting against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

This is the first major attack ISIS has conducted on Iranian soil, though it has targeted Iranian interests abroad over the years. The capabilities displayed suggest ISIS may have covert cells operating within Iran’s borders and highlights the risk posed by the group despite its territorial defeat.

Iran Vows Revenge

In the aftermath of the deadly bombings, Iran’s leadership has vowed to avenge the attack and punish the perpetrators.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei promised Iran would respond with “strong, decisive and destructive” blows to those behind the attack. He blamed the U.S. and Israel for supporting ISIS, though without providing evidence of their direct involvement in planning the Kerman bombings.

Other Iranian leaders also issued warnings that Tehran would retaliate harshly. These included pledges to ramp up support for allied militias in the region to conduct attacks, potentially raising the risk of a wider conflict.

Given Iran’s track record of retaliation after Soleimani’s 2020 killing, the chances of Iranian reprisals through proxy forces in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon is high. This could lead to an escalatory spiral with regional and global implications.

Dead and Injured from Kerman Bombings
84 killed
Over 200 injured

Outlook and Analysis

The twin suicide attacks represent the deadliest terrorist incident to occur in Iran since the early days of the Islamic Revolution. While ISIS has claimed the operation, Iran may still suspect U.S. or Israeli involvement given the timing and impact.

Regardless of the precise perpetrators, the bombings carry symbolic importance given the high-profile target of Soleimani’s memorial event. The fact that armed militants were able to penetrate deep into Iranian territory and carry out such a brazen attack against senior IRGC leadership on a heavily secured occasion will be viewed as an embarrassment and intelligence failure by Iran’s security apparatus.

Expect substantial retaliation from Iran in the coming weeks and months. This is likely to take the form of asymmetric attacks conducted through regional proxy groups rather than overt conventional military action. Iraqi Shiite militias closely affiliated to Iran will probably be activated to strike U.S. or allied interests. Iranian cyberattacks could also be launched against critical infrastructure globally as Tehran seeks to reassert deterrence.

In the bigger picture, the Kerman bombings represent another dangerous flashpoint in a turbulent Middle East already beset by geopolitical tensions and sectarian divisions. As key stakeholders rush to exploit the fallout, the risk of miscalculation leading to a wider regional conflagration cannot be discounted.

Responsible powers would be wise to exercise restraint and explore de-escalatory off-ramps, else the recurring cycle of retaliation risks unleashing disastrous uncontrolled conflict. But with emotions running high in Tehran in the aftermath of this traumatic episode, appeals for cooler heads to prevail may struggle getting traction.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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