TEHRAN: Motorcycle-borne gunmen assassinated the colonel of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard outside his home in Tehran.
The two assailants shot Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei five times in his unarmored Iranian-made Kia Pride, state media said, right off a highly secure street home to Iran’s parliament.
Reports identified Khodaei only as a “defender of the shrine,” a reference to Iranians who fight against the extremist Daesh group in Syria and Iraq within the Guard’s elite Quds Force that oversees foreign operations.
Little information was publicly available about Khodaei, as Quds officers tend to be shadowy figures carrying out secretive military missions supporting Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, and other militias in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere.
The Tehran prosecutor arrived at the crime scene within hours of the killing to investigate and demanded police urgently arrest the perpetrators. The probe’s speed suggested Khodaei’s prominence in the murky structure of the Guard’s overseas operations.
Those operations have come under repeated Israeli air attacks in Syria. An Israeli strike near the Syrian capital of Damascus killed two Guard members in March, prompting Iran to retaliate by firing a missile barrage into northern Iraq.
Security forces were pursuing the suspected assailants, state TV reported, without offering further details or giving a motive for the killing.
Around the same time, state-run media said the Revolutionary Guard’s security forces had uncovered and arrested members of an Israeli intelligence network operating in the country, without elaborating on whether they had any connection to Khodaei’s slaying.
The Guard blamed the killing on “global arrogance,” typically code for the United States and Israel. That accusation, as well as the style of the brazen killing, raised the possibility of a link with other motorbike slayings previously attributed to Israel in Iran, such as those targeting the country’s nuclear scientists. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.