An elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander has been shot dead by masked assailants in front of his house in southwestern Iran. Crucially, he was a mid-range to possibly top commander of the IRGC's hardline domestic wing, the Basij militia, and a close ally of recently assassinated Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani, reports state news IRNA on Wednesday.
The details clearly suggest that it was an assassination — at this point by an unknown entity or group — given two men riding a motorcycle drove by and essentially executed him in the street.
Reuters has described the slain Basij militia commander, Abdolhossein Mojaddami, as "an ally of Qassem Soleimani" — who was himself assassinated by US drone strike on January 3rd.
"IRNA said that Abdolhossein Mojaddami, a Basij commander in the city of Darkhovin in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, was shot on Tuesday in front of his home by two men riding a motorcycle," Reuters reports based on official Iranian state media quotes. "There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, IRNA said."
The Associated Press added a few further limited details as follows:
Two gunmen on a motorcycle, armed with an assault rifle and a hunting rifle, ambushed Mojaddami, IRNA reported. Other Iranian media said the gunmen’s faces were covered with masks and that four shots were fired.
During sporadic protests going back to November, when unrest was fiercest inside Iran following a dramatic government gas subsidy cut — which saw economic protests give way to broader anti-regime mass gatherings — hundreds were reported gunned down by Basij militia working in tandem with police.
Tehran authorities defended security services' use of deadly force, claiming "rioters" were attacking banks, oil facilities, and government buildings.
Interestingly, the Khuzestan region witnessed severe unrest as protesters clashed with police in November, and has since seen sporadic anti-government activity. It's also considered one of the key oil-producing regions of the country.
Of course, this latest killing also brings up the possibility of a foreign or external intelligence agency operation, though it remains speculation. One likely candidate alleged to enjoy US and Israeli covert backing is Mujahideen e Khalq (MEK), considered by Iran and many other countries as an active terrorist organization. Groups in Iran linked to the MEK have been previously known to be involved in political assassinations.
Essentially a paramilitary cult devoted to overthrowing the Iranian government, the MEK is under the tight control and leadership of the charismatic opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, and is suspected of previously conducting brazen targeted killings of high level Iranian figures, especially nuclear scientists and engineers for years, likely at the bidding of foreign intelligence services. Until a few years ago the MEK was a designated terror group by the US State Department, though delisted under the Obama administration.