A senior religious figure, member of the body responsible for appointing Iran's supreme leader, was killed on Wednesday in the north of the country by a man whose motives remained unknown, according to state media.
Ayatollah Abbas Ali Soleimani, 75, was shot dead while he was at a bank in Babolsar, a town on the shores of the Caspian Sea about 230 km north of Tehran.
Images from a bank surveillance camera, released by the Tasnim agency, show a room in which a uniformed and armed man shoots at another, dressed in a religious habit and seated on a chair. Two other people then try to control the assailant who manages to leave the room.
The author of the shot was then "arrested by the security forces," said the Irna agency.
Attacks against representatives of the Iranian clergy are extremely rare. The previous case dates back to April 2022, when a suspected jihadist stabbed two Shiite clerics to death in the holy city of Mashhad (northeast).
Mazandaran Provincial Governor Mahmoud Hosseinipour told state television that the attack on the ayatollah was not "a terrorist incident", and that authorities were investigating to determine the killer's motives.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raïsi also called on "the police to act as soon as possible" in order to find "the causes of the accident and identify the motivations of the author or authors".
"The attacker was a local resident and was armed," but he was not a police officer, the governor said.
"According to available information, the killer did not know the victim," he said, adding that Ayatollah Soleimani had "gone to the bank for personal financial matters".
The cleric had held the positions of representative of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and responsible for Friday prayers in several major cities of the country, including Kashan in the center, and Zahedan, capital of Sistan-Baluchistan ( South East). He served in this role until 2019.
He was also one of the 88 members of the Assembly of Experts, the college responsible for appointing, supervising and possibly dismissing the Supreme Leader.
This organization is generally composed of religious elected for eight years by direct universal suffrage from a group of candidates approved by the Council of Guardians of the Constitution.
Within it, Ayatollah Soleimani represented the province of Sistan-Baluchistan, one of the poorest regions of Iran, which is home to the Baloch minority, mainly adhering to Sunni Islam and not to the dominant Shiism in the country.
At the time of the elections to the Assembly of Experts, he was on the list of the Community of Seminary Teachers of the Shiite holy city of Qom (center), a conservative organization.
04/26/2023 17:03:27 - Tehran (AFP) - © 2023 AFP