Iran names alleged bombmaker behind ISIS attack, says 1 of 2 bombers is Tajik-Israeli

Intelligence ministry says explosives in bombing that killed over 90 were made by Tajik national known by alias Abdollah Tajiki; Tehran doesn’t name alleged second suicide bomber

People pray over the flag-draped coffins of victims of a suicide-bomb attack during a funeral ceremony in the city of Kerman, Iran, January 5, 2024. (Vahid Salemi/AP)
People pray over the flag-draped coffins of victims of a suicide-bomb attack during a funeral ceremony in the city of Kerman, Iran, January 5, 2024. (Vahid Salemi/AP)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s intelligence ministry on Thursday identified a top suspect, described as ringleader and bombmaker, in the twin suicide bombings last week claimed by the Islamic State group (IS or ISIS) as the death toll from the attack rose to at least 94, state media reported.

The January 3 attack — in which two suicide bombers targeted a commemoration for Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, slain in a 2020 US drone strike in Iraq — was the deadliest in Iran in decades as the wider Middle East remains on edge.

One bomber detonated his explosives at the ceremony in Kerman, about 820 kilometers (510 miles) southeast of the capital, Tehran, then another attacked 20 minutes later as emergency workers and other people tried to help the wounded from the first explosion.

The official IRNA news agency carried a statement by the intelligence ministry saying the main suspect who planned the bombing was a Tajik national known by his alias Abdollah Tajiki.

According to IRNA, the suspect had entered the country in mid-December by crossing Iran’s southeast border, and left two days before the attack, after making the bombs.

The report also identified one of the bombers by his family name of Bozrov, saying the man was 24 years old and had Tajik and Israeli nationality. It said he also arrived in Iran by crossing the southeastern border after months of training by IS in Afghanistan.

The report further said authorities were still trying to identify the second suicide bomber. In its claim of responsibility, the Islamic State group had identified the two bombers as Omar al-Mowahed and Seif-Allah al-Mujahed.

People gather at the site of an explosion in the city of Kerman, about 510 miles (820 kilometers) southeast of Tehran, Iran, January 3, 2024. (Sare Tajalli, ISNA via AP)

Iranian authorities have so far arrested 35 people across several provinces with purported links to the bombings, the report added.

Meanwhile, the death toll from the attack rose to 94 on Thursday, from the previous 91 fatalities reported on Sunday. Iranian media said 14 of the dead were Afghan nationals who were participating in the commemoration for Revolutionary Guard General Qassem Soleimani, who led the paramilitary’s expeditionary Quds Force.

The Islamic State group, which once held vast territory across Iraq and Syria, ultimately was beaten back by US-led forces. It has been in disarray in the years since, though it has mounted major assaults.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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