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Iran arrests man over attack on top cleric at Friday prayers

Ayatollah Yousef Tababaeinejad appears unharmed in interview after incident; latest attack on cleric comes amid anger over economic woes

Senior Iranian cleric Ayatollah Yousef Tababaeinejad in 2015 (Wikimedia commons)
Senior Iranian cleric Ayatollah Yousef Tababaeinejad in 2015 (Wikimedia commons)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian security forces on Friday arrested a young man following an assault on a top provincial cleric in the central city of Isfahan, Iranian media reported. The cleric appeared unharmed in a video broadcast after the attack.

According to the semiofficial Fars news agency, the unidentified man accosted prayer leader Ayatollah Yousef Tababaeinejad as he was talking with some worshipers after Friday prayers and attempted to stab him in the neck with a “sharp metal object.”

The report said mosque guards quickly detained him and added that the case is under investigation.

A video on Iranian media later showed Tababaeinejad speaking to a reporter afterward and saying the assailant seemed to be a young man, in his 20s.

Such attacks are uncommon in Iran, though in the early 1980s clerics were targeted by armed opposition groups, mostly during or after Friday prayers.

Over the past months, there have been chants against clerics during protest gatherings in Iran over price hikes and the slashing of subsidies by the government.

In early April, a stabbing attack in the revered Imam Reza shrine in the northeastern city of Mashhad killed three clerics — a rare act of violence at the major pilgrimage site for Shiite Muslims.

Tababaeinejad, a hard-line cleric appointed by the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is known as a vocal opponent of social media and music, saying they are part of the West’s software war against Islamic beliefs.

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