A senior Iranian Shia Muslim cleric and member of the powerful Assembly of Experts, Ayatollah Abbas-ali Soleimani, was killed in a gun attack in northern Iran on April 26th, 2023. The attack occurred at a bank in Babolsar, in Mazandaran province, where Ayatollah Soleimani was visiting on personal business. The governor of Mazandaran confirmed that the attacker was a bank security guard, who has been arrested.
Who was Ayatollah Abbasali Soleimani?
Ayatollah Abbasali Soleimani was one of 88 clerics on the Assembly of Experts, a powerful elected body that appoints the Supreme Leader of Iran. He also served as the personal representative of the current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in the restive south-eastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan. Ayatollah Soleimani was known for his hardline views, including his call for gender segregation in all public spaces in the Islamic Republic, including workplaces.
Events of the Incident
The attack occurred at a branch of Bank Belli in Babolsar, where Ayatollah Soleimani was visiting on personal business at around 10:30 am on April 26th, 2023. CCTV footage published by Tasnim news agency showed the cleric sitting on a chair inside the bank when a middle-aged man wearing a blue and white uniform and carrying what looked like a submachine gun approached him from behind and fired a series of shots into his back. The attacker was then disarmed and detained by two other men, one of whom was wearing a green uniform.
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The motive for the attack remains unclear, according to the governor of Mazandaran, Mahmoud Hosseinipour Nouri. He stated that the attacker was a local man who was one of several armed guards employed by a security contractor to protect the bank. While investigations into the shooting are ongoing, the governor said that “our information and documents indicate that this was not a security or terrorist act.”
Reactions to the Attack
The attack on Ayatollah Soleimani has sparked widespread condemnation from Iranian officials and religious leaders. Iran’s President, Ebrahim Raisi, described the attack as a “heinous crime” and called for swift justice for the perpetrator. The Speaker of Iran’s parliament, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, called for an urgent investigation into the incident and expressed his condolences to Ayatollah Soleimani’s family.
Implications for Iran’s Political Landscape
The killing of Ayatollah Soleimani is likely to have significant implications for Iran’s political landscape. As a member of the Assembly of Experts, he played a crucial role in the appointment of the Supreme Leader, and his death could lead to a reshuffling of the Assembly. It could also lead to a hardening of the Iranian government’s stance on security and law enforcement, particularly if the investigation into the attack reveals that it was politically motivated.
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The killing of Ayatollah Soleimani is a significant event that has shocked Iran’s political and religious establishment. While the motive for the attack remains unclear, it is likely to have significant implications for Iran’s political landscape. As investigations into the incident continue, it is important for Iranian authorities to ensure that justice is done and that those responsible for the attack are held accountable.