The bombing was a very big deal. It was indeed a suicide bombing, the man’s name was Abdul Rahed Mohammadi Sarabani, who was associated with the military wing of Jundullah, headed by Abdulmalik Khan Rigi. The IRGC had killed two of his brothers, and this was an act of vengeance, carried out to inflict maximum damage on the RGs. The target was a large theater, which holds up to two thousand people. It is part of a large military complex, one of the most important in the country.
The people there were attending an urgent strategy session. Due to the recent attacks by the Pakistani armed forces in Waziristan, many al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and fighters had fled to the Iranian side of the Baluchistan border (Sarbaz is less than an hour’s drive from the Pakistani side). Here is a map from Google.
The purpose of the strategy session was to assist the terrorists, to help them reorganize, to rearm them, to arrange to get them back into Pakistan and, for at least some of them, thence to Afghanistan. For that reason, attendance counted many very important people.
The gathering in Sarbaz included not only top RG officials (including the commander in chief, General Mohammed Ali Jaafari, whose fate is unknown as of now), but also top civilian intelligence officers from the State of Sistan and Balouchistan (the second largest state in Iran), and members of an elite RG brigade named after the Imam Ali, along with the military governor of the city of Sarbaz, and the terrorists who had run away from Pakistan. The bomber, Sarabani, was dressed in an officer’s uniform, and he knew exactly where to go. The blast brought down the roof of the structure.
The real casualty figures are impossible to obtain, but they are considerably higher than the ones officially announced. At a minimum, 108 were killed, including 57 members of the Revolutionary Guards. Some of the names have already been announced, but so far Jaafari’s name has not been mentioned.
I cannot evaluate the impact on the AfPak theater, but it may be significant. It has already had a major impact on the border area. All flights in and out of Sarbaz and nearby cities were canceled Sunday and Monday, and the roads are blocked. Many local hospitals are counting the dead and treating the wounded. One hospital, in Iranshahr, reported more than fifty fatalities.
Meanwhile, there are other explosions. The most famous tea factory in the country, the Golestan Tea Factory, has been burned to the ground. There were reports of an explosion near the Oil Ministry in downtown Tehran on Sunday night (blamed on a faulty air tank), and there have been three major fires in the Tehran Bazaar since mid-June. Airplane incidents are so common they are rarely noted. A train from Tehran to Kerman derailed on Sunday evening, and it’s a train that typically carries many military personnel. And, as several reports have noted, in addition to the bombing in Blouchistan, there was also an ambush of a Revolutionary Guard convoy.
An explosive situation. And a big opposition demonstration is scheduled for November 4th.
UPDATE: Apparently Jaafari survived. He is quoted by an Iranian news agency, as per the New York Times. He blames US and Britain for the bombing. If he is indeed alive, this would be the second assassination attempt he has survived in recent months.