Tehran, Iran – A deadly knife attack at a holy shrine in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad earlier this week was an attempt at driving a wedge between Muslims and nations, officials have said.
Tuesday’s attack, on the fourth day of the holy month of Ramadan in Iran, took place as large crowds gathered in the courtyard of the shrine of Imam Reza which is visited by millions of people annually.
The Tasnim news agency identified the assailant as 21-year-old Abdolatif Moradi, an ethnic Uzbek who entered Iran illegally via the Pakistani border a year ago.
It later showed a purported video of the attacker in which he expresses contempt for Shia beliefs.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Iran’s Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi denounced the “terrorist” attack at the shrine in which a spiritual leader was killed and two others were wounded badly.
“This bitter event shows that the enemy has not ceased its efforts to spread discord,” he said, without ascribing direct blame to a specific country or organisation.
Vahidi added that “this is a blind movement crafted by Western countries” and those who spread “takfiri” thinking – a term describing extremism by Muslims who brand others as apostates and condemn them to death.
President Ebrahim Raisi, who once headed the foundation that runs the holy shrine, said on Wednesday that “colonialists and hypocrite Muslims must not be allowed to use ethnic and religious divisions to sow discord between Muslims and the people of our country and our neighbours”.
Videos of the attack showed the assailant being tackled to the ground and apprehended by people at the shrine.
He was then taken into custody and Iranian media reported that several people who had said to have assisted him in the attack were arrested.
On Thursday, a public funeral procession for the deceased, Mohammad Aslani, was attended by thousands in Mashhad.
Flowers were placed at the scene of the attack in the courtyard of the mausoleum.