A mysterious fire broke out at an underground Iranian Natanz nuclear complex on Thursday morning damaging the a centrifuge assembly plant.
Tehran said that it knew the cause of the fire but in online messages groups claimed responsibility for the fire creating more confusion over the incident. A group called the “Cheetahs of the Homeland” claimed responsibility.
A video claimed the group included “soldiers from the heart of regime’s security organizations” who wanted to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
General Gholam Reza Jalali, the head of Iran’s military in charge of combating sabotage said, “If it is proven that our country has been attacked by cyberattacks, we will respond.”
“Due to some security considerations, the cause and manner of the accident will be announced at the appropriate time,” spokesman Keyvan Khosravi said.
The fire broke out at 2:06am local time after heat censors of the NOAA-20 satellite captured signatures.
Iranian news agency Tasnim reported that no casualties were at the facility.
According to state media Press TV, the incident was being investigated.
Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) shared images of a damaged building. Photos released showed two-story brick building with scorch marks and its roof destroyed. Debris on the ground and a door that looked blown off its hinges suggesting an explosion accompanied the blaze.
— Atomic Energy Organization Of Iran (@aeoinews) July 2, 2020
International Atomic Energy Agency in a statement said that the location where the incident occurred does not contain nuclear materials.
Destroying a centrifuge assembly facility could greatly impact Iran’s ability to more-quickly enrich greater amounts of uranium. Iran has begun experimenting with advanced centrifuge models in the wake of the U.S. withdrawing two years ago from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal.
The Natanz fire also comes less than a week after an explosion in an area east of Tehran that analysts believe hides an underground tunnel system and missile production raising further suspicion.