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Thousands attend funeral for slain Guard colonel in Iran

TEHRAN, IRAN (AP) – Thousands of mourners poured into the streets of Tehran yesterday to pay their respects to a senior Revolutionary Guard member fatally shot by two gunmen on a motorcycle earlier this week.

The killing last Sunday of Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei bore the hallmarks of previous deadly shooting attacks in Iran blamed on Israel, such as those targetting the country’s nuclear scientists.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack. Iranian officials have blamed “global arrogance”, which is code for the United States (US) and Israel, for Khodaei’s killing.

The funeral procession snaked through the main Tehran cemetery as mourners shouted anti-US and anti-Israel slogans. A prominent poster hailed Khodaei as a martyr along with General Qassem Soleimani, the top Iranian general killed in a US drone strike in 2020 in Iraq, and featured tattered Israeli, American and British flags.

‘Iran is a victim of terrorism’, the banner declared, overlaid with the logos of the Mossad and Central Intelligence Agency.

Relatives mourn over the flag draped coffin of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei during his funeral ceremony in Tehran, Iran. PHOTO: AP

Guard commander General Hossein Salami as well as leader of Iran’s expeditionary Quds Force General Esmail Ghaani, attended the funeral.

Ghaani also offered condolences at Khodaei’s home on Monday night. Iran’s nuclear negotiator visited the crime scene, underscoring the government’s shock.

The 50-year-old Khodaei remains a shadowy figure, and Iran has yet to offer biographic detail beyond saying that he was a member of the elite Quds Force that oversees operations abroad through Iran’s allied militias across the Middle East.

The Guard has described him as “defender of the shrine” – a reference to Iranians who support militias fighting the extremist Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

The manner of the slaying evoked previous targetted attacks by Israel in Iran. In 2020, top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed while travelling in a car outside Tehran.

Women in black chadors wailed and wept over Khodaei’s coffin, an ornate box covered with flowers and draped with the Iranian flag.