TEHRAN: Iran on Friday buried a second Shiite cleric killed in a suspected jihadist attack at a revered shrine in the country’s north, state television reported.
Sadegh Darai, a middle-ranking cleric, died on Thursday from wounds sustained in the stabbing attack earlier this week in Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest city.
Another cleric, Mohammad Aslani, also died in the knife attack, while a third, Mohsen Pakdaman, is in stable condition in hospital, state television said.
The assailant struck on Tuesday — Iran’s third day of the holy fasting month of Ramadan — as large crowds of worshippers had gathered in the courtyard of the shrine of Imam Reza, one of the most revered figures among Shiites.
Darai was buried in a plot reserved for “martyrs” in the sanctuary’s courtyard, next to Aslani, who was buried Thursday.
Local media outlets have identified the assailant as Abdolatif Moradi, a 21-year-old Sunni extremist and ethnic Uzbek who had entered Iran illegally via the Pakistani border a year ago.
They said authorities had arrested six suspected accomplices, including the chief suspect’s two brothers.
Official news agency IRNA said the three victims were involved in religious and charitable activities in Mashhad, a city home to more than 3 million people.
President Ebrahim Raisi has blamed the knife attack on the influence of US-based “takfiri” groups — a term used for Muslims who brand others as apostates, condemning them to death, and usually referring to Sunni extremists.
Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi on Thursday denounced a “hateful terrorist operation” and warned that those promoting “takfiri” ideology would be “severely punished.”
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.