The new governor of a northwestern Iranian province was slapped in the face by an angry man during his inauguration on Saturday in an unusual breach of security in the Islamic Republic.

A motive for the attack in Iran’s Eastern Azerbaijan province remains unclear, though it targeted a new provincial governor who once served in the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and reportedly had been kidnapped at one point by rebel forces in Syria, according to The Associated Press.

One report referred to the incident as a personal dispute.

The new governor, Brig. Gen. Abedin Khorram, had taken the podium in the provincial capital of Tabriz when the man came in from offstage and swung at the official.

Video aired by state television recorded the gathered crowd gasping in shock, the sound of the slap echoing on the sound system. It took several seconds before plainclothes security forces reached him.

They dragged the suspect off through a side door, knocking down a curtain. Others rushed up, knocking into each other.

Later footage showed Khorram return to the stage and speak to the crowd.

“I do not know him of course but you should know that, although I did not want to say it, when I was in Syria I would get whipped by the enemy 10 times a day and would be beaten up,” he said, according to AP.

“More than 10 times, they would hold a loaded gun to my head. I consider him on a par with those enemies but forgive him.”

Though Khorram said he didn’t know the man, the state-run IRNA news agency later described the attacker as a member of the Guard’s Ashoura Corps, which Khorram had overseen. The report described the attack as coming due to “personal reasons,” without elaborating.

Khorram had been recently nominated by Iran’s hard-line parliament to serve as the provincial governor under the government of President Ebrahim Raisi.

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