A Shia cleric in the mostly Sunni Iranian city of Zahedan has been shot dead, officials say, threatening to enflame sectarian tensions following weeks of nationwide unrest.
A “special task force” has been set up to identify and arrest those behind the killing of Sajjad Shahraki, the imam of Moulay Motaqian mosque, said Ahmad Taheri, police commander of Sistan-Baluchistan province.
According to the initial investigation, Shahraki was shot in the head and chest by masked gunmen traveling in two cars.
Sistan and Baluchistan borders Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is one of Iran’s poorest provinces and home to a Sunni Baluch minority estimated to number up to 2 million people.
Zahedan, the provincial capital, was the scene of a violent crackdown on September 30 in which security forces killed 92 people, including 12 children, according to IranWire sources. Four security forces were also killed that day, dubbed Zahedan’s Black Friday.
The incident -- the deadliest in the nationwide protest movement triggered by the September 16 death of the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police -- followed days of angry rallies over the alleged rape of a 15-year-old girl by a police officer in Chabahar.
The deaths were widely criticized, including by a top Sunni cleric who said senior officials including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei were responsible “before God.”