Though the Iranian officials called it an accident, the satellite images made public today reveal vast destruction and chaotic disarray across a sprawling complex composed of more than a dozen buildings, The New York Times reported.
"The entire facility was destroyed and there is hardly any building left standing," the paper quoted a report made by Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington. The institute officials were quoted as saying that the blast occurred while rocket engineers were performing a volatile procedure with missile engine, indicating that Iran was working on the development of a new long range missile probably capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
The report said it runs contrary to claim by Iranian officials that the accident has set back missile research work there by a few days. But the paper said it was impossible to determine from the images whether the explosion had been a simple accident or an act of sabotage.
Iran has released no photographs of the blast damage as Tehran has become increasingly sensitive about its military capabilities as tensions mount with the West over its missile and nuclear programme.
Iranian military chief Hassan Firouzabadi had said that the blast occurred while researchers were working on weapons capable of delivering Israel a "strong punch in the mouth." He said their research would result in only a "short-term delay of a few days." But it was hard to reconcile his appraisal with the obliteration seen in the image.