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Statue of slain commander Soleimani torched in Iran hours after unveiling

Unknown assailants set fire to effigy of IRGC general in Shahrekord as country marks anniversary of assassination; exiled dissident group hails ‘resistance units’ behind attack

Screen capture from video of a statute of slain Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani that was set on fire in the Iranian city of Shahrekord, on January 5, 2022. (Screenshot/Twitter)
Screen capture from video of a statute of slain Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani that was set on fire in the Iranian city of Shahrekord, on January 5, 2022. (Screenshot/Twitter)

TEHRAN, Iran — A statue erected to honor slain Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani has been torched by unknown assailants hours after it was unveiled, Iranian media reported Thursday.

Soleimani, who headed the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, was killed on January 3, 2020 in Iraq in a United States drone strike at Baghdad airport along with his Iraqi lieutenant and others.

On Wednesday morning, a statue to honor him was unveiled in the southwestern Iranian city of Shahrekord.

But in the evening it was set on fire, ISNA news agency said, calling it a “shameful act by unknown individuals.”

“This treacherous crime was carried out in darkness, just like the other crime committed at night at Baghdad airport,” when Soleimani was killed, senior Muslim cleric Mohammad Ali Nekounam said in a statement carried by ISNA.

Iranian authorities have unveiled several sculptures dedicated to Soleimani since his assassination two years ago, and portraits of the revered commander dot the landscape across Iran.

State broadcaster IRIB condemned the latest attack as an “insulting” act, that comes as Iran marks the second anniversary of Soleimani’s killing, with several events in recent days.

The exiled National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said “resistance units” were behind the attack and called Soleimani a “mass murderer,” the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.

The NCRI is the political wing of the People’s Mujahedin (MEK), which is banned in Iran and seeks the “overthrow” of Iran’s clerical leadership. It accuses Iran’s ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi of being responsible for the mass executions of thousands of its members in 1988.

On Thursday, thousands of Iranians also paid tribute to 250 “unknown martyrs” killed in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.

Ceremonies were held across the country, AFP reporters and state media reported.

“We are always suffering from the loss of martyrs, like Hajj Qassem [Soleimani], because they all fought on the frontlines with their heart,” Ali Asghar, a mourner in Tehran, said.

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