Israel intelligence confirms ‘major blast’ at Iran nuclear plant
January 28, 2013 6 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Intelligence officials in Israel have confirmed reports of a “major explosion” that is believed to have severely damaged an Iranian nuclear enrichment facility, but refused comment on rumors that Israeli jets were seen flying nearby around the time of the blast. The blast was initially reported late on Sunday by Reza Kahlili, an Iranian former agent of the United States Central Intelligence Agency inside Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. Citing Hamidreza Zakeri, a former officer in Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and National Security, Kahlili said that the explosion severely damaged the nuclear enrichment plant in Fordo, centrally located in Iran’s Qom Province. According to Zakeri, the blast was strongly felt across a three-mile radius around Fordo and “destroyed much of the installation” itself. The former government official added that around 240 plant workers had been trapped underground by the powerful explosion. Following the blast, according to Zakeri, Iranian troops quickly cordoned off the plant and prevented anyone from getting closer than 15 miles from Fordo. A few hours after Kahlili’s report, Seyyed Shamseddin Barbroudi, Deputy Head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency told Iranian media that there had been “no explosion in Fordo Nuclear Facility”. His denial was echoed by Alaeddin Boroujerdi, member of the Iranian Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Policy and National Security. He told the Islamic Republic News Agency that rumors of an explosion at Fordo were “Western-made propaganda” aimed at destabilizing Iran. On Monday morning, however, the London-based Times newspaper said its “sources in Tel Aviv” had confirmed the blast took place in Fordo. The Israeli sources, who spoke to the British newspaper on condition of anonymity, said Israel was “still in the preliminary stages of understanding what happened and how significant it is”. They also claimed they did not know whether the blast was a result of “sabotage or accident”. Significantly, they refused to confirm or deny reports that Israeli military jets were seen flying near Fordo around the time of the explosion. Although refusing to comment on the details of the case, some Israeli politicians appear to be welcoming news of the blast. Israel’s Minister for Home Front Defense, Avi Dichter, told The Times of Israel that “any explosion in Iran that does not hurt people but hurts its assets is welcome”.