Iran claims the drone strike targeted a defense facility in Isfahan

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Bomb-carrying drones attacked an Iranian defense factory in the central city of Isfahan overnight, authorities said early Sunday, causing some damage to the plant amid heightened regional and international tensions engulfing the Islamic republic.

Iran’s defense ministry did not provide information on who it suspected of carrying out the attack, which came after a separate fire broke out at a refinery in the country’s northwest and a 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck nearby, killing two people.

However, Tehran has been the target of alleged Israeli drone strikes in the midst of a shadow war with its Middle Eastern rival as its nuclear deal with world powers failed. Meanwhile, tensions remain high with neighboring Azerbaijan in the aftermath gunman attacked this country’s embassy in Tehran, killing the security chief and injuring two others.

Details of the attack in Isfahan, which happened around 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, remain scarce. A statement from the Department of Defense described three drones 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 injuring no one, the ministry said.

The English-language arm of Iran’s state broadcaster, Press TV, aired cellphone video apparently showing the moment a drone struck the busy Imam Khomeini Highway, which runs northwest from Isfahan, one of several ways for drivers to get to the holy city Qom and Tehran, the capital of Iran. A small crowd stood gathered, attracted by the anti-aircraft fire, and watched as an explosion and sparks struck a dark building.

“Oh my God! That was a drone, wasn’t it?” shouted the man taking the picture. “Yes, it was a drone.”

Those there fled after the impact.

This footage of the strike, as well as footage of the aftermath analyzed by The Associated Press, matched a site on Minoo Street in northwestern Isfahan, which is near a shopping center that includes a carpet and electronics store.

Iran’s defense and nuclear sites increasingly find themselves surrounded by commercial properties and residential neighborhoods as the country’s cities expand ever further outward. Some places also remain incredibly vague about what they produce, with only a sign bearing the logo of the Ministry of Defense or the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

The Ministry of Defense called the facility only a “workshop” without specifying what it does. Isfahan, about 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of Tehran, is home to both a large air base built for a fleet of US F-14 fighter jets and the Nuclear Fuel Research and Production Center.

The attack comes after Iran’s Intelligence Ministry said in July it had foiled a plot to target sensitive sites around Isfahan. A segment aired on Iranian state television in October included alleged confessions by alleged members of Komala, a Kurdish opposition party that was expelled from Iran and now lives in Iraq, that they planned to attack a military aerospace center in Isfahan after being trained by Israel’s Mossad intelligence service.

Activists say Iran’s state television has aired hundreds of forced confessions over the past decade. Israeli officials declined to comment on the attack.

Separately, Iran’s state television reported that a fire broke out at an oil refinery in an industrial zone near the northwestern city of Tabriz. It said the cause was still unknown as it showed footage of firefighters trying to put out the blaze. Tabriz is about 520 kilometers (325 mi) northwest of Tehran.

State television also said the 5.9-magnitude quake killed two people and injured about 664 others in rural areas of West Azerbaijan province, damaging buildings in many villages.

Iran’s theocratic government faces challenges both at home and abroad as its nuclear program rapidly enriches uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels after the collapse of its nuclear agreement with world powers. National protests rocked the country following the death of Mahsa Amini in Septembera Kurdish-Iranian woman detained by the country’s moral police. Its currency, the rial, fell to new lows against the US dollar.

Israel is suspected of carrying out a series of attacks against Iran, including an April 2021 attack on the Natanz underground nuclear facility that damaged its centrifuges. In 2020, Iran accused Israel of a sophisticated attack that killed his top military nuclear scientist.

Israeli officials rarely acknowledge operations carried out by the country’s secret military units or its Mossad intelligence agency. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who recently re-entered the premiership, has long viewed Iran as the greatest threat facing his nation.

Meanwhile, tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran remain high Azerbaijan and Armenia fought over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Iran also wants to keep its 44-kilometer (27-mile) landlocked border with Armenia, something that could be threatened if Azerbaijan seizes new territory through war.

In October, Iran began military exercises near the border with Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan also maintains close ties with Israel, which has angered Iranian hardliners and bought Israeli-made drones for its military.


Associated Press writer Joseph Krauss contributed to this report.

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