Senior Shiite cleric shot dead in Iran

Man arrested after shooting, says state TV

Ayatollah Abbas Ali Soleimani was shot dead in Babolsar, Iran. EPA
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A senior Shiite cleric in Iran was shot and killed on Wednesday in a northern province on the Caspian Sea, authorities said.

Ayatollah Abbas Ali Soleimani was shot at a bank in Babolsar, in Iran's Mazandaran province, state television reported.

It said police arrested a man.

“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 attack took place inside a bank in Babolsar city, the official said.

"The motive of the assailant is not yet clear and will be announced after it is clarified," the official added.

The governor of Mazandaran, Mahmoud Hosseinipour, said the attacker was a local security officer of the bank.

"So far, our information and documents indicate that this was not a security or terrorist act," Mr Hosseinipour told state television, adding that "the assailant did not know the ayatollah."

CCTV camera footage released by Tasnim news agency showed the security guard, wearing a blue and white jacket, shooting the cleric from behind as he was sitting in a chair at the bank.

Following the killing, Iranian Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri ordered provincial authorities to "investigate the issue from different angles, do the necessary follow-ups and report the results."

Mr Soleimani had been at the bank when another man seized a guard's firearm and began shooting over a personal dispute with an employee, striking and killing the cleric, state TV said.

Soleimani served on the Assembly of Experts, an 88-seat panel that oversees and appoints Iran's supreme leader.

He was once the personal representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Iran's Sistan and Baluchestan province.

Last April, a suspected terrorist attack in the north-eastern shrine city of Mashhad killed two clerics and injured another.

Updated: April 27, 2023, 4:18 AM