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Iran arrests several over killing of general it blamed on Israel

Judiciary says legal steps are being taken against suspects in killing of Sayyad Khodaei, who reportedly helped lead shadowy division within Quds Force

People walk past a banner showing Iran's Revolutionary Guard Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei  prior to his funeral ceremony, in Tehran, Iran, May 24, 2022. (Vahid Salemi/AP)
People walk past a banner showing Iran's Revolutionary Guard Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei prior to his funeral ceremony, in Tehran, Iran, May 24, 2022. (Vahid Salemi/AP)

Iran said Tuesday that several people had been arrested over the assassination of a top general that Tehran has blamed on Israel.

Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, a senior member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was shot dead outside his Tehran home in May by two assailants on a motorcycle.

“Several people have been arrested in the case of the assassination of martyr Khodai,” judiciary spokesman Masoud Setayeshi told a news conference, Reuters reported, citing state media.

“The necessary legal orders have been issued for them and the case is under investigation,” Setayeshi said.

Days after the killing, the New York Times cited an unnamed intelligence official as saying Israel told US officials it was behind the Khodaei assassination, which it carried out to warn Tehran against the continued operation of a covert unit the target helped lead.

According to the Times report, Israeli officials claimed Khodaei was deputy head of the so-called Unit 840, a shadowy division within the IRGC’s expeditionary Quds Force that carries out kidnappings and assassinations of figures outside of Iran, including against Israelis. Khodaei was specifically in charge of Unit 840’s Middle East operations, but he had been involved in attempted terror attacks against Israelis, Europeans and American civilians and government officials in Colombia, Kenya, Ethiopia, the UAE and Cyprus in the last two years alone.

His killing was meant to warn Iran that the group should stop its activities, the intelligence official quoted by the Times said.

The report did not specify which country the intelligence official represented, but according to Ynet, the Israeli security establishment believed the source was American and was furious about the leak.

Family members of Col. Hassan Sayad Khodaei weep over his body at his car after he was shot by two assailants in Tehran, Iran, May 22, 2022. (Islamic Republic News Agency, IRNA via AP)

Iran has never publicly acknowledged the existence of Unit 840 and maintains that Khodaei played a completely different role in the IRGC after joining as a teen, voluntarily enlisting during the Iran-Iraq War and later fighting against Islamic State in Syria on behalf of the Quds Force.

Khodaei was shot five times in his car by two unidentified gunmen on motorbikes in the middle of Tehran on May 22.

The incident took place in the heart of one of the most secure areas in Tehran — Mohahedin-e Eslam Street, home to other senior officials in the IRGC and its elite Quds Force.

The head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Maj. Gen Hossein Salami publicly blamed “the Zionists” for the assassination.

Khodaei’s assassination was the most high-profile killing inside Iran since the November 2020 killing of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

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