Gunmen in Iran shot dead a commander of the hardline Basij militia who was an ally of Qassem Soleimani, the senior Revolutionary Guards commander killed in a US drone strike in Iraq, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing Iran’s official news agency IRNA.
The Basij are under the command of the Guards, the most powerful and heavily armed security force in the Islamic Republic.
Abdolhossein Mojaddami, a Basij commander in the city of Darkhovin in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, was shot on Tuesday in front of his home by two men riding a motorcycle, said IRNA.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, IRNA said. It described Mojaddami as one of the “defenders of the shrine”, a reference used to describe members of security forces who have fought in recent conflicts in Iraq or Syria.
There have been some speculations that the attack was carried out by the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA), which is responsible for past attacks in Iran, such as the attack on a military parade in the same region in September of 2018.
Khuzestan was one of the main centers of violent protests that swept across around 100 cities and towns in Iran mid-November in response to fuel price hikes.
At least 304 people were killed in the crackdown on those protests, according to figures released by Amnesty International last month.
Iran blamed the unrest on "thugs" backed by its foreign enemies, including the US, Israel and the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, an exiled armed opposition group it considers a "terrorist" cult.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed following the crackdown that his country had foiled a "very dangerous" plot in the violent demonstrations.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards arrested about 100 leaders of the protests and said they would act to severely punish them.