Stabbing attack at holy shrine in Iran kills 1 cleric, injures 2

Motive for foreign national’s assault remains unclear after the incident during Ramadan in the city of Mashhad

Muslim worshipers at the shrine of Imam Reza in the city of Mashhad, Iran, September 1, 2010. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Muslim worshipers at the shrine of Imam Reza in the city of Mashhad, Iran, September 1, 2010. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

TEHRAN, Iran  — An assailant stabbed three clerics at the most revered Shiite site in Iran on Tuesday, according to Iranian state-run media, killing one and injuring two before he was arrested. The motive for the attack remained unclear.

One cleric died almost instantly after being stabbed at the Imam Reza shrine, a major pilgrimage site for Shiite Muslims in Iran’s holy northeast city of Mashhad. Two others were hospitalized, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported.

Mashhad prosecutor Mohammad Hossein Darroudi described the assailant as a foreign national, without elaborating. He said four other suspects were arrested in connection with the case.

State media identified the cleric who was killed as Mohammad Aslani. It did not provide information about the conditions of the other victims.

Graphic video from the scene that was shared on social media showed two men splayed on the shrine’s gray marbled floor covered with blood. IRNA news agency posted a video of police arresting the assailant.

The attack happened on the third day of the holy fasting month of Ramadan that draws Muslim worshipers to communal prayers at mosques across the country.

The Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad, some 900 kilometers (560 miles) northeast of the capital Tehran, is the largest complex housing a tomb in Iran and its most visited. The shrine draws about 20 million people a year, mostly Iranians and pilgrims from neighboring nations like Iraq and Pakistan.

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, the government held an armed opposition group, Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, responsible for the bombing that killed over two dozen people.

The stabbings on Tuesday followed a separate attack targeting clerics earlier this week. On Sunday, two Sunni clerics were shot to death in a mosque in the northern town of Gonbad Kavus. Authorities did not offer a motive for that incident, either.

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