Thousands of mourners have poured into the streets of Tehran to pay their respects to a senior Revolutionary Guard member fatally shot by two gunmen on a motorcycle at the weekend.
The killing of Col Hassan Sayyad Khodaei in Tehran on Sunday bore the hallmarks of previous deadly shootings in Iran which were blamed on Israel, such as those targeting the country’s nuclear scientists.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack. Iranian officials have blamed “global arrogance”, which is code for the United States and Israel, for Col Khodaei’s killing.
The funeral procession snaked through the main Tehran cemetery as mourners shouted anti-US and anti-Israel slogans.
A prominent poster hailed Col Khodaei as a martyr along with Gen Qassem Soleimani, the top Iranian general killed in a US drone strike in 2020 in Iraq, and featured tattered Israeli, American and British flags.
“Iran is a victim of terrorism,” the banner declared, overlaid with the logos of Mossad and the US Central Intelligence Agency.
Guard commander Gen Hossein Salami as well as Gen Esmail Ghaani, leader of Iran’s expeditionary Quds Force, attended the funeral.
Gen Ghaani also offered condolences at Col Khodaei’s home on Monday night.
Iran’s nuclear negotiator visited the crime scene, underlining the government’s shock.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has vowed revenge. A street in Tehran has already been named after the colonel.
The 50-year-old Col Khodaei remains a shadowy figure, and Iran has yet to offer biographic detail beyond saying that he was a member of the elite Quds Force that oversees operations abroad through Iran’s allied militias across the Middle East.
The Guard has described him as “defender of the shrine” — a reference to Iranians who support militias fighting the extremist Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.
The manner of his killing has evoked previous targeted attacks by Israel in Iran.
In November 2020, a top Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was killed while travelling in a car outside Tehran.
Women in black chadors wailed and wept over Col Khodaei’s coffin, an ornate box covered with flowers and draped with the Iranian flag and mourning symbols of the Shia faith.
Iranian security forces are still pursuing the assailants, who escaped, state media reported. Authorities have yet to make any arrests over the killing.
The procession took place as a sandstorm blanketed Iran, closing schools and government offices in the capital.