Raeisi Warns against Discord after Mashhad Terrorist Attack

President Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi on Wednesday warned against colonial plots meant to sow discord among Muslims and Iranian ethnic groups a day after a terrorist stabbed to death a Shia cleric and wounded two other comrades in the revered shrine of Imam Reza (AS) in the northeastern city of Mashhad.

Raeisi blamed the attack on the influence of “Takfiri” groups – a term used for Muslim extremists who brand others as apostates.

“Those who showed enmity were from the Takfiri movement,” Raeisi said, warning that “the colonialists and hypocrites should not be allowed to use ethnic and religious issues to foment discord between Muslims and the people of our country and neighbors”.

He said sowing discord had been “one of the old methods of the colonialists”.

Raeisi – who once chaired Astan Quds Razavi, a charitable foundation that runs the Imam Reza Shrine – instructed the Intelligence Ministry to probe the knife attack.

A memorial service was held in Mashhad on Wednesday for Mohammad Aslani, who held the clerical rank of hojjatoleslam, and was laid to rest. He will be buried today in a lot reserved for martyrs in the shrine’s courtyard.

Flowers were placed at the scene of the attack, in the courtyard of the shrine.

The assailant struck on the third day of the holy month of Ramadan in Iran as large crowds of worshippers had gathered in the courtyard of the shrine of Imam Reza (PBUH), the eighth Imam of Shia Muslims.

Videos posted on social media showed two men on the ground of the shrine’s courtyard covered with blood. IRNA posted footage of police arresting the assailant.

Authorities arrested at least six suspected accomplices, including two brothers of the assailant, after the attack in Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city, with a population of more than three million.

Fars News Agency released a picture of the three victims seated together in Mashhad, naming the two wounded clerics only as Pakdaman and Daraei. One of the victims was reportedly in critical condition.

Tasnim News Agency identified the assailant as Abdul-Latif Moradi, a 21-year-old Uzbek man who had entered Iran illegally from the Pakistani border a year ago and settled in Mashhad.

In its report, Tasnim said Moradi, unlike Sunni Muslims, has a Takfiri ideology.  

Such violent acts at the holy shrine are rare. However, one of the biggest terrorist attacks in Iranian history occurred at the shrine in 1994. At the time, Iran held Mojahedin Khalq Organization, an armed terrorist group, responsible for the bombing that killed over two dozen people.

The stabbing on Tuesday followed a separate attack targeting clerics over the weekend. On Sunday, two Sunni clerics were shot to death in an Islamic seminary in the northern town of Gonbad Kavus.

IRNA said police had arrested a suspect in connection with the deadly shooting. The local chief justice said an investigation was underway to find a motive for the killings.