Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) announced that one of its senior officers, Colonel Hassan Sayad Khodaei, of its Quds Force military wing was killed in a rare assassination in the capital.
By Erin Viner
Khodaei was reportedly shot five times outside his downtown home by two unknown assassins who escaped by motorcycle.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency called Khodai “one of the defenders of the shrines” in reference to military personnel and advisors identified by the Islamic Republic as fighting on its behalf to protect Shi’ite sites in Iraq or Syria against groups such as Islamic State. The so-called “defenders of the shrines” also include Afghan and Pakistani volunteers.
After visiting the site of the killing, the state prosecutor stressed the need for the “quick identification and arrest of the authors of this criminal act,” said Fars news agency.
Khodaei was martyred in a terrorist act committed by “the anti-Revolution and agents affiliated with global arrogance,” the IRGC said in a press release, adding that “thugs linked to the intelligence agency of the Zionist regime (Israel)” had already been captured and arrested for involvement in a series of crimes that include “robberies, kidnappings and vandalism,” reported the Tehran Times, which is linked to Iran’s Foreign Ministry.
ISNA, also a semi-official agency, also claimed Israeli intelligence operatives were captured and arrested by the IRGC.
Iran has vowed a strong response to the killing.
“This inhuman crime was perpetrated by terrorist elements linked to global arrogance,” said Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh in a statement. In apparent reference to arch-for Israel, he added, “the sworn enemies of the holy system of the Islamic Republic of Iran once again showed their evil nature with the assassination and martyrdom of one of the members of the IRGC troops.”
Israel, the United States, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have officially designated the IRGC as a terrorist organization.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, which oversees the Mossad intelligence agency, declined to comment on the events in Tehran. Late last night, however, Jerusalem security sources identified Col. Khodaei was part of an Iranian plans to abduct and murder Israelis, in a plot the Israel Security Agency (ISA, otherwise known by the Hebrew acronym Shin Bet) had exposed last week.
At least six Iranian scientists and academics have been killed or assaulted since 2010, frequently by assailants riding motorcycles, in incidents believed to target Iran’s disputed nuclear development that Israel and the West believe is is aimed at producing weapons.
Iran has condemned the killings as acts of terrorism. In April, the Islamic Republic’s intelligence ministry announced it had arrested three Mossad spies in a statement published by Fars.
Israel has declined comment on such accusations.
For the past several years, Israel has acknowledged mounting hundreds of attacks on Iranian-linked targets in Syria where the Islamic Republic’s forces and proxy terror groups including Lebanon’s Hezbollah have become entrenched in deployments aimed at attacking Israel while assisting President Bashar al-Assad battle insurgents in the Syrian Civil War which erupted in 2011.
While the Jewish State rarely confirms such missions, the country’s political and defense leaders have repeatedly stated that Iran’s presence just over the northern frontier will not be tolerated.