Work accident or sabotage?
On Saturday, a mysterious and massive explosion
rocked a military-arms depot near Tehran, killing 17 Revolutionary Guards Corps
officers and wounding 15 others, a spokesman for the elite fighting force told
the semi-official Fars news agency.
Iranian officials said the blast was
caused by an accident as soldiers moved munitions at the base in Bidganeh, near
Shahriar, 45 km. west of the Iranian capital. The base is also believed to be
the storage center for some of Iran’s most-advanced long-range ballistic
missiles, such as the Shahab 3.
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Israel and the United States have been
accused over the years of working to sabotage the Islamic Republic’s nuclear and
In October 2010, a similar blast took place
at a Revolutionary Guards munitions store in Khoramabad, in western Iran,
killing and wounding several servicemen.
While there was no indication of
any attack on Saturday, the explosion shook homes and rattled windows for
kilometers, at a time of mounting tensions with Israel over Iran’s nuclear
“So far, 27 personnel of Revolutionary Guards have been martyred
and 16 others wounded, some of them are in critical condition,” Iranian
broadcasting quoted Revolutionary Guards spokesman Ramezan Sharif as
saying. The causality numbers were subsequently lowered to 17 dead and 15
“Today at 1:30 p.m. an explosion happened in one of the
Revolutionary Guards’ bases while a consignment of explosive devices was being
moved out from the arsenal; besides that some munitions in the arsenal exploded
which created a terrifying sound,” Sharif said.
Residents in western
suburbs of Tehran told Reuters they had felt the blast, with some assuming it to
be a small earthquake.
Fire raged at the base for hours. Surrounding
streets were closed and reporters were kept away from the scene.
media reported there had been two explosions, and the head of Iran’s Red
Crescent organization said there was a risk of further blasts.
Mozafar told the Mehr news agency that only six paramedics had been allowed into
the Amir al-Momenin military base and that thick smoke was hampering the rescue
There were no reports linking the blast to any air strike or other
attack. Tension has risen in recent weeks between Iran and its enemies
Israel and the United States, which have not ruled out striking
believe are working toward making nuclear weapons.
Sharif denied what he
said was speculation in the Western media that the military base was linked to
Iran’s nuclear program. “This blast is not related to any nuclear tests
that some foreign media have reported,” he told Mehr.
Western accusations that were given further credence by a report from the UN
nuclear agency last week, that its nuclear program has military ends.
Sunday, the cabinet in Jerusalem will be briefed about the International Atomic
Energy Agency report during its weekly meeting.
The Foreign Ministry has
instructed its emissaries to speak with their counterparts in capitals around
the world about the need for severe sanctions against Iran.