Sunday, January 29, 2023
DUBAI: A loud explosion struck a military industry factory near the central Iranian city of Isfahan overnight in what Tehran said on Sunday was a drone strike by unidentified attackers.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which came amid tension with the West over Tehran's nuclear activity and supply of arms for Russia's war in Ukraine, as well as months of antigovernmental demonstrations at home.
Iran's foreign minister said the "cowardly" attack was aimed at creating "insecurity" in Iran. The Defence Ministry said the explosion caused only minor damage and no casualties. The extent of the damage could not be independently confirmed.
"Such actions will not impact our experts' determination to progress in our peaceful nuclear work," Hossein Amirabdollahian told reporters in televised remarks.
Iranian media video showed a flash of light at the plant, which the official news agency IRNA described as an ammunition factory. Footage also showed emergency vehicles and fire trucks outside the complex.
"Around 23:30 on Saturday night, an unsuccessful attack was carried out using Micro Aerial Vehicles (MAVs) on one of the ministry's workshop sites," the Defence Ministry said in a statement carried by state TV.
It said one drone was shot down "and the other two were caught in defence traps and blew up. It caused only minor damage to the roof of a workshop building. There were no casualties."
The attack "has not affected our installations and mission ... and such blind measures will not have an impact on the continuation of the country's progress," the statement said.
Separately, IRNA reported early on Sunday a massive fire at a motor oil factory in an industrial zone near the northwestern city of Tabriz. It gave no information about the cause of that blaze.
The republic has in the past accused arch-enemy Israel of planning attacks using agents inside Iranian territory. In July, Tehran said it had arrested a sabotage team made up of Kurdish militants working for Israel who planned to blow up a "sensitive" defence industry centre in Isfahan.
An Israeli military spokesperson declined to comment when asked if Israel had any connection to the latest incident. Israel has long said it could attack Iran if diplomacy fails to curb Tehran's nuclear or ballistic missile programmes, but has a policy of withholding comment on specific incidents.
In Ukraine, which accuses Iran of supplying hundreds of drones to Russia to attack civilian targets in Ukrainian cities far from the front, a senior aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy linked the incident directly to the war there.
"War logic is inexorable [and] murderous. It bills the authors [and] accomplices strictly," Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted. "Explosive night in Iran - drone & missile production, oil refineries. Did warn you."
Several Iranian nuclear sites are located in Isfahan province, including Natanz, the centrepiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment programme, which Iran accuses Israel of sabotaging in 2021. There have been a number of explosions and fires around Iranian military, nuclear and industrial sites in recent years.
Talks between Iran and world powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal have stalled since September. Under the pact, abandoned by Washington in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, Tehran agreed to limit nuclear work in return for easing of sanctions.
Iran has acknowledged sending drones to Russia but says they were sent before Moscow's invasion of Ukraine last year. Moscow denies its forces use Iranian drones in Ukraine, although many have been shot down and recovered there.
Iran's clerical rulers have also faced internal turmoil in recent months, with a crackdown on widespread anti-establishment demonstrations spurred by the death in custody of a woman held for allegedly violating its strict dress code.