The Islamic Republic of Iran experienced the deadliest attack in its history on Wednesday January 3, which killed at least 84 people. It took place as Tehran commemorated the death of Ghassem Soleimani, the commander of external operations of the Revolutionary Guards (the country’s ideological army), killed on January 2, 2020, in Baghdad, by an American drone strike. Minutes apart, two bombs exploded in the southern city of Kerman, near the Saheb Al-Zaman mosque, where the general is buried, as a large crowd visited his grave .

According to Tasnim, a news agency affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, the perpetrators of the attack remotely detonated two bags loaded with explosives, left at the entrance to the Kerman cemetery. Three officers and six children are believed to be among the victims. This attack, which had not been claimed as of Thursday morning, comes in a context of very strong regional tension since the October 7, 2023 attack by Hamas in Israel, responsible for the death of 1,200 people and the capture of around 240 hostages, and the outbreak of war in Gaza, which caused the deaths of more than 22,000 Palestinians.

The day before the double attack in Kerman, on January 2, Saleh Al-Arouri, number two in the Hamas political bureau, as well as six other executives of the Islamist movement, were killed in Beirut, by a strike attributed to Israel. A few days earlier, on December 25, 2023, Iran accused Israel of killing the highest-ranking member of Syria’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Brigadier General Razi Mousavi, in a missile strike. Iranian leaders had promised retaliation. “Israel made a strategic mistake by assassinating an Iranian general. This crime will not go unanswered,” the chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, Mohammad Bagheri, reacted the next day.

The opportunity chosen by the perpetrators of the attack owes nothing to chance. Key figure in the “resistance” axis – a coalition of states and non-state actors which includes among its ranks the Iraqi Shiite militias, the Syrian regime, Hezbollah in Lebanon as well as the Houthi rebels in Yemen –, Ghassem Soleimani was the architect of Iran’s regional military activities. The general had also been on the front line in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) organization.

“Cowardly act”

Shortly after the double attack in Kerman, on the social network The president, Ebrahim Raïssi, promised that Iranian security services “will soon identify and punish the perpetrators of this cowardly act.” Neither leader pointed the finger at any particular foreign country or military group. As of Thursday morning, Iran’s intelligence ministry had not yet assigned responsibility for the two explosions.