As the protests against the Islamic Republic in Iran enter their eighth month after the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022 under police custody, many in the country are shocked to learn about the assassination of a senior cleric in a bank on April 26.
Senior Iranian Shia cleric shot dead at bank https://t.co/ojKPMSvC96
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) April 26, 2023
Ayatollah Abbas Ali Soleimani was assassinated inside a bank in Babolsar in Iran’s Mazandaran province, just north of Iran’s capital, Tehran.
اولین فیلم از جسد آیت الله عباسعلی سلیمانی بعد از ترور / شلیک با اسلحه نگهبان بانک بود
صبح امروز مردی با حضور در بانک ملی مرکزی بابلسر با تیراندازی به آیت الله سلیمانی دست به قتل زد. pic.twitter.com/kODdmrre8i
— خبرگزاری رکنا (@RoknaPress) April 26, 2023
Iran’s state television initially reported that a man overpowered a guard and shot the cleric. State media also reported an account from an eyewitness, saying that the assassin grabbed a guard's gun and opened fire, killing Soleimani while injuring three others.
However, surveillance camera footage later shared by Iranian media showed the gunman walking around holding a gun inside the bank with Soleimani sitting down. After a few minutes, the suspect shot Soleimani with his rifle.
A window behind Soleimani was shattered, and his turban fell off after he was shot. One of the bystanders, wearing a blue uniform, was seen shocked and staring at the assailant. He approached the assailant, while another bystander in a green uniform went out of the counter and approached him. The footage showed the two trying to grab and contain the assailant before it ended.
Strange, I can't seem to muster any tears.
— Saher Druze (@DruzeSaher) April 26, 2023
Security forces reportedly arrested the suspect, identified only as Habibian, who was allegedly working as one of the bank’s guards. Authorities did not provide a motive for the attack, with Soleimani’s son saying he was not aware of the details of the assassination.
Iran’s Interior Ministry said it would launch a special investigation into the murder. Soleimani was the most-senior clergyman slain since the beginning of the protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini last year.
His death is also among many cases of attacks against Iran’s Shia clergy, who have risen to power following the Iranian Revolution in 1979 that overthrew the Shah and his monarchy. As discontent against the Islamic Republic continued to increase, the attacks against them increased in number in the past few months.
— justanewsreader (@aNewsConsumer) April 26, 2023
Last April 16th, another cleric was a victim of attempted murder when a car tried to ram him after parking his vehicle on Tehran’s Marzdaran Boulevard. The state of the 35-year-old cleric was not disclosed while the culprit fled the scene. Authorities are searching for the suspect.
Well.. I mean.. If you wanna play with fire.. You're gonna get burned.. These goonies can't possibly think all this religious policing BS is going to go unpunished forever. #therevolutionisnow #thefutureisfemale #IranianRevolution
— Khaled El-kurdi (@adhd_overdrive) April 26, 2023
Soleimani served twice as a member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, a body that oversees the election of the country’s Supreme Leader. He also served as the personal representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan, which had been challenging to control over recent months.
The 77-year-old hardliner cleric also said in his autobiography that he was appointed the Imam of Babolsar to fight against the opposition groups. Soleimani also reportedly supervised the city’s judicial system.