DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Bomb-carrying drones struck an Iranian defense factory in central Isfahan overnight, authorities said early Sunday, amid regional and international tensions engulfing the Islamic Republic. The plant caused some damage amid the heightened situation.
Iran’s Defense Ministry did not provide any information on who it suspected of carrying out the attack, which came as a fire broke out at an oil refinery in the country’s northwest and a 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck nearby, killing two people.
However, Tehran has been the target of suspected Israeli drone strikes in a shadowy war with its Middle Eastern rivals as its nuclear deal with world powers collapses. Meanwhile, tensions with neighboring Azerbaijan remained high after a gunman attacked the country’s embassy in Tehran, Killed its security chief and wounded two others.
Details remain scant about the Isfahan attack that took place around 11.30pm on Saturday. A Defense Ministry statement described three drones being launched at the facility, two of which were successfully shot down. A third apparently managed to hit the building, causing “minor damage” to its roof and no one was injured, the ministry said.
Cellphone video aired by Press TV, the English-language channel of Iranian state television, apparently showed the moment the drone hit the busy Imam Khomeini highway, heading northwest from Isfahan, where drivers headed to One of several ways to the holy city of Qom and the holy city of Tehran, the capital of Iran. A small group gathered, drawn in by the anti-aircraft fire, watched as the explosion and sparks hit a darkened building.
“My God! That’s a drone, isn’t it?” shouted the person filming it. “Yes, that’s a drone.”
People there fled after the strike.
Footage of the strike, and footage of the aftermath analyzed by The Associated Press, corresponded to a site on Minoo Street in northwest Isfahan near a shopping mall with carpet and electronics stores.
Iran’s defense and nuclear facilities are increasingly surrounded by commercial real estate and residential complexes as the country’s cities expand outward. Some places are still very opaque about what they make, save for a logo bearing the emblem of the Ministry of Defense or the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The Department of Defense referred to the site only as a “workshop,” without elaborating on what it did. Isfahan, about 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of Tehran, is home to a large air base for the US-made F-14 fighter fleet and a nuclear fuel research and production center.
Separately, Iranian state television said a fire broke out at an oil refinery in an industrial area near the northwestern city of Tabriz. It said the cause was unclear as it showed footage of firefighters trying to extinguish the blaze.
State television also said the 5.9-magnitude earthquake in rural areas of West Azerbaijan province killed two people, injured about 580 and damaged buildings in many villages.
Iran and Israel have long been engaged in a shadow war that has included covert attacks on Iran’s military and nuclear facilities.
Last year, Iran said an engineer was killed and another employee was injured in an unexplained incident at the Patchin military and weapons development complex east of the capital Tehran. The ministry said it was an accident, but gave no further details.
Patchin is home to a military base where the International Atomic Energy Agency said it suspected Iran had tested an explosive device that could be used for nuclear weapons.
In April 2021, Iran accused Israel of An attack on its underground Natanz nuclear facility damaged the centrifuges.
Israel has not claimed responsibility for the attack, but there have been widespread reports in Israeli media that it orchestrated a devastating cyberattack that knocked out power at the nuclear facility. Israeli officials rarely acknowledge operations by the country’s secretive military unit or its Mossad intelligence agency.
In 2020, Iran blamed Israel for a sophisticated attack that killed its top nuclear scientist.
Iran has always maintained that its nuclear program is purely peaceful. U.S. intelligence agencies, Western countries and the International Atomic Energy Agency say Iran had an organized nuclear weapons program until 2003.
The UN’s top nuclear official, Rafael Mariano Grossi, recently warned Iran has enough highly enriched uranium to build “several” nuclear weapons if it wanted to.
Efforts to revive a 2015 deal with world powers that limited Iran’s nuclear activities stalled last year. Both the United States and Israel have vowed to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and neither has ruled out military action.
Associated Press writer Joseph Krause contributed to this report.