© APVictims of the explosions in the city of Kerman โ€ข January 3, 2024
The Islamic State (IS) extremist group has claimed responsibility for a pair of explosions in Iran that killed at least 84 people during commemorations for a former Iranian commander slain four years ago in a U.S. airstrike.

In a statement on Telegram, the group said two of its members "activated their explosives vests" at a gathering marking the anniversary of the death of Qasem Soleimani, a former commander of the elite Quds Force.

The incident has intensified fears of widening conflict in the region as Israel continues its war against the U.S.- and EU-designated terrorist organization Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Yemeni-based Houthi rebels also allied with Iran continue their attacks on Red Sea commercial shipping.

Iranian state news agency IRNA on January 4 quoted the head of the National Medical Emergency Organization, Jafar Miadfar, as revising the death toll downward for a second time since the explosions, in the southeastern city of Kerman, from 95 to 84 killed and 284 injured.

Iranian authorities declared January 4 a day of mourning for the victims of the blasts.

The commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) dismissed reports in Iranian media and echoed by an international news agency that shooting broke out in Kerman on January 4.

Earlier on January 4, an aide to Iran's president blamed Israel and the United States for the explosions. The United States rejected suggestions that either Israel or Washington was behind the blasts.

President Ibrahim Raisi has vowed that the perpetrators "of this cowardly act will soon be identified and punished for their heinous act by the capable security and law enforcement forces."

During a visit to a hospital treating some of the injured, First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber said "a very strong retaliation will be handed to [the perpetrators] on the hands of the soldiers of Soleimani."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the blasts, while the UN Security Council said they were "reprehensible." A statement from the Security Council "condemned in the strongest terms the cowardly terrorist attack in the city of Kerman."

Commemorations of Soleimani's death have previously drawn large crowds.

During his funeral in 2020, a stampede broke out and at least 56 people were killed and more than 200 were injured in a procession of thousands of Iranians.

Considered at the time to be one of the most powerful men in Iran and the architect of Tehran's foreign policy in the region, Soleimani was killed in what the United States called a "defensive" drone strike while he was traveling in a two-car convoy near Baghdad's international airport early on January 3, 2020.

The Quds Force is the elite foreign arm of the IRGC and has been declared a foreign terrorist organization by the United States.