A spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said on Friday that the main cause of Thursday’s explosion at the Natanz nuclear facility had been determined and would be announced at an “appropriate time.”
“Due to some security considerations, the cause and manner of this incident will be announced at a proper time,” he told the propaganda channel Press TV. He rejected rumors about radioactive contamination following the incident. Earlier, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, which reported the explosion, insisted it had caused no stoppage or slowdown of enrichment because the affected shed was actually under construction and not part of the enrichment process yet.
But an analysis of pictures and satellite images identified the exploded structure in Natanz as Iran’s new Centrifuge Assembly Center, and the damage appears to have extended to half the building, according to the Associated Press.
An accident took place at the Natanz nuclear plant / Salahaddin satellite channel video
BBC’s Persian service says it received emails about the Thursday explosion in Natanz before the news became public, from a group calling itself “Cheetahs of the Homeland,” which claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Cheetahs claimed in a video that they are “soldiers from the heart of regime’s security organizations” who want to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. The video and an accompanying written statement called Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei a monster, and argued that his regime is worse than the Shah’s.
Ronen Bergman, who writes on security issues for the NY Times and for Yedioth Aharonoth, suggested on Friday that the name of the group was a kind of a joke, intended to signal to the Iranian public that it was not just another opposition group, and that its members had an authentic, Iranian sense of humor.
On Saturday, IRNA quoted senior Iranian lawmaker Yaghoub Rezazadeh who said that a team comprising members of Iranian Parliament National Security and Foreign Policy Commission is preparing to visit the Natanz Nuclear Complex “following an incident that has taken place recently.”
On Thursday, IRNA stated: “So far, Iran has tried to prevent intensifying crises and the formation of unpredictable conditions and situations. But the crossing of red lines of the Islamic Republic of Iran by hostile countries, especially the Zionist regime and the US, means that strategy … should be revised.”
Gholamreza Jalali, head of Iran’s homeland security, told state television that “if it is proven that our country has been targeted by a cyber attack, we will respond.”
In 2010, the Stuxnet computer virus, developed by the US and Israel, was used to attack the Natanz facility.
Amos Harel noted in Haaretz on Sunday that “the underground facility that was damaged in Natanz is at the heart of the debate on Iranian violations of the nuclear agreement. It’s where the newer, faster centrifuges that accelerate the rate of uranium enrichment are assembled.”
A massive explosion that rocked the Mahdaj Ahwaz gas production plant near the Az-Zarqan region in Ahwaz province, western Iran on Saturday, came two days after another explosion rocked the nuclear facility in Natanz. The explosion in Ahwaz is the fifth major attack inside Iran since June 25, when a huge explosion in the area of a major Iranian military and weapons development base in Khojir, east of Tehran turned the skyline bright orange. Last Tuesday night, the Sina At’har Medical Clinic in Tehran caught fire and then a massive explosion erupted there, killing 19 and injuring 14 people.