TEHRAN, Iran — Azerbaijan has closed a mosque linked to Iran’s supreme leader, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reports, days after Tehran launched war games near their shared border in a move denounced by Baku.
“The mosque and representative office of Seyyed Ali Akbar Ojaghnejad, representative of supreme leader [Ayatollah] Ali Khamenei in Baku, were sealed and closed today by order of the authorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan,” Tasnim says, without giving further details.
Ojaghnejad has held the post since 1996, according to the website of his office, which is located inside the mosque.
Azerbaijan’s interior ministry spokesman Eskhan Zahidov says in a statement that the move was necessary because of “a surge in COVID-19 cases in several locations in Baku,” and that the mosque’s operation had been “suspended temporarily.”
Iran’s embassy in Baku says in a statement that it has followed up on the matter via diplomatic channels, adding that there was no warning of the move in advance.
Since mid-September, tensions have soared between the two neighbors, who share a 700-kilometer (430-mile) border.
On Friday, the Iranian army’s ground forces began maneuvers near the frontier, a move criticized by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.