Iran makes arrest over second deadly blast in Tehran in week

Bloomberg – Iranian authorities detained one person and were seeking at least four others over a deadly blast at a clinic in Tehran, the second major explosion to rattle the capital in less than a week.

The city’s attorney general, Ali Alghasi Mehr, said the people were wanted for their potential involvement in the blast late on Tuesday, and that a judicial investigation had been launched, according to the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency.

In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, which killed at least 19 people in the busy Tajrish neighborhood, Tehran’s fire department blamed a leak in gas tanks on the building’s basement floor.

But on Wednesday, the head of Tehran City Council’s Health Commission, Zahra Sadr-Azam Nouri, said initial investigations indicated a fault in the electricity network connected to oxygen tanks kept in unsafe storage rooms was responsible. In comments carried by ISNA, Nouri said the fire department had repeatedly warned the clinic about safety measures but that it had never fully complied.

Mobile-phone video showed a large plume of smoke rising from the clinic as onlookers gathered. Twenty people escaped via windows and balconies.

There was no indication that the incident was linked to a blast at a military installation near Tehran last week, in which a gas leak was also blamed.

Iran said that explosion took place at Parchin, which is thought to have played a role in the country’s nuclear program. But The New York Times reported Tuesday that satellite imagery showed the incident actually struck a nearby missile-production facility.

Together the explosions jolted a nation being ravaged by the region’s worst coronavirus outbreak while locked in a tense standoff with the U.S.

As the first reports of Tuesday’s explosion surfaced, the latest chapter of their standoff was unfolding. U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo urged the United Nations Security Council to extend an expiring arms embargo on Iran as world powers from China to Europe pushed back against U.S. threats to reimpose UN sanctions on Tehran if the weapons ban lapses.

— With assistance by Golnar Motevalli

(Updates with comment on possible cause in fourth paragraph.)