DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—An explosion that rattled Iran’s capital came from an area in its eastern mountains that analysts believe hides an underground tunnel system and missile production sites, satellite photographs showed Saturday.
What exploded in the incident early Friday that sent a massive fireball into the sky near Tehran remains unclear, as does the cause of the blast.
The unusual response of the Iranian government in the aftermath of the explosion, however, underscores the sensitive nature of an area near where international inspectors believe the Islamic Republic conducted high-explosive tests two decades ago for nuclear weapon triggers.
The blast shook homes, rattled windows and lit up the horizon early Friday in the Alborz Mountains. State TV later aired a segment from what it described as the site of the blast.
One of its journalists stood in front of what appeared to be large, blackened gas cylinders, though the camera remained tightly focused and did not show anything else around the site. Defense Ministry spokesman Davood Abdi blamed the blast on a leaking gas he did not identify and said no one was killed in the explosion.
Abdi described the site as a “public area,” raising the question of why military officials and not civilian firefighters would be in charge. The state TV report did not answer that.
Satellite photos of the area, some 12.5 miles (20 kilometers) east of downtown Tehran, showed hundreds of yards of charred scrubland not seen in images of the area taken in the weeks ahead of the incident. The building near the char marks resembled the facility seen in the state TV footage.