Iran threatens retaliation over damaged nuclear site

Iran's civilian defense chief threatened retaliation against any country that carries out cyber attacks against its nuclear sites following a large explosion at Iran's Natanz plant this week.

The underground Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant is one of the focal points of Iran's nuclear program and is monitored by the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog. Iran is believed to be producing a new line of centrifuges that would allow the country to enrich uranium at a much faster rate, a concern for the U.S. and its allies.

“Investigations by the relevant agencies have accurately determined the cause of the incident... at the Natanz nuclear complex,” Keyvan Khosravi, spokesman for Iran's top security body, said Friday, according to news agency Tasnim. “Due to security considerations, the cause and manner of the incident will be announced at a convenient time.”

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Natanz is located in the central Iranian province Isfahan. The explosion occurred early on Thursday, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) reported. The body later released a photo that depicted the site being heavily damaged.

A Middle Eastern intelligence official told The New York Times that the damage was caused by a planted explosive device, but the AEOI didn't mention any suspected foul play initially.

The BBC reported that a group called the Homeland Cheetahs has taken responsibility for the explosion, though it could not independently confirm the claim. The group is reportedly composed of Iranian military dissidents.