A member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was killed in the capital, Tehran, on Sunday after gunmen opened fire on his car, state media reported.
The man, identified as “shrine defender” Col Sayad Khodaei, died when two men on a motorcycle fired five bullets at him near his home at the Mojahedin-e-Islam Street area about 4pm, state news agency Irna said.
Iran calls its advisers and military personnel who serve in Iraq and Syria as “Holy Shrine Defenders”, whether they are Iranian or foreign.
Photographs published by Irna showed a man slumped in the driving seat of a car with shattered windows on the passenger side.
The Revolutionary Guard issued a statement identifying Khodaei as a member of its Quds Force, which is responsible for its overseas operations.
Its statement denounced the “terrorist act" carried out by “elements linked to global arrogance”, a term used to refer to the US and its allies.
The IRGC said it had launched an investigation to identify the “aggressor or aggressors”.
The Tehran prosecutor arrived at the crime scene within hours of the killing to investigate and demanded police urgently arrest the perpetrators.
The probe’s speed suggested Khodaei was prominent in the murky structure of the Guard’s overseas operations.
Foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said he deplored the killing of Khodaei.
"This inhuman crime was perpetrated by terrorist elements linked to global arrogance," Mr Khatibzadeh said.
He denounced "the silence of countries that pretend to fight against terrorism".
Little information was publicly available about him, as Quds officers tend to carry out secretive military missions supporting Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group and political party, and other militias in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
Security forces were pursuing the suspected assailants, state TV reported, without offering further details or giving a motive for the killing.
Hours earlier, Isna news agency reported that the Revolutionary Guard’s security forces had uncovered and arrested members of an Israeli intelligence network operating in the country.
“Under the guidance of the Zionist regime’s intelligence service, the network attempted to steal and destroy personal and public property, kidnapping and obtaining fabricated confessions through a network of thugs,” the report said.
With reporting from agencies.