Ayatollah Abbas Ali Soleimani, a powerful Iranian cleric was killed in an armed attack, Iranian state media reported on Wednesday.
“Ayatollah Abbas Ali Soleimani was killed this morning in an armed attack… the assailant was also arrested,” IRNA news agency reported, citing an official.
The deadly attack took place in the city of Babolsar, according to IRNA. The city is part of northern province of Mazamdaran.
Soleimani (75) was previously representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei. He was also an imam and led the weekly Friday prayers in cities of Kashan and Zahedan. Kashan is in central Isfaham province while Zahedan is in southwestern province of Sistan-Baluchistan.
Fars news agency has reported that the suspected killer has been detained. The news agency said that Soleimani died in a hospital after being shot at a bank.
“The motive of the assailant is not yet clear and will be announced after it is clarified,” the official added, as per the report.
According to Mahmoud Hosseinipour, governor of Mazandaran province, the attacker was a local security person of the bank.
“So far, our information and documents indicate that this was not a security or terrorist act,” Hosseinipour told state television.
Under the constitution, the 88-strong Assembly of Experts is mandated with supervising, dismissing and electing the Supreme Leader.
The all-powerful deliberative body is now headed by ultra-conservatives 96-year-old cleric Ahmad Jannati.
Members of the Assembly of Experts are chosen in popular elections. Once elected, each member serves an eight-year term. The pool of candidates for the assembly is vetted by Iran’s Guardian Council.
Attack on Ayatollah Abbas Ali Soleimani is believed to be the most significant one against a cleric in recent years in Iran.
In April 2022, a suspected jihadist knife attack in the northeastern shrine city of Mashhad in Razavi Khorasan Province led to death of two clerics and injury of another.
The chief suspect, identified as Abdolatif Moradi, 21, was an ethnic Uzbek who had entered Iran illegally via the Pakistani border a year ago, Tasnim news agency said at the time.
Moradi was hanged in June in the same city on the accusation of “moharebeh”, or “war against God”.
The assailant struck on the third day of the holy month of Ramadan as large crowds of worshippers gathered at the shrine of Imam Reza, one of the most revered figures in Shiite Islam.
The attack in Mashhad came days after two Sunni clerics were shot dead outside a seminary in the northern Iranian town of Gonbad-e Kavus.