A senior member of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force was assassinated on Sunday by two motorcyclists in Tehran, the state-owned Tasnim news agency said.
Tasnim identified the man as Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei and said he was assassinated while sitting in his car in front of his house. Two assailants shot the victim five times, state media said.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said Khodaei "was murdered by terrorist assassins," as quoted on Iranian television, and that the killing was under investigation. "We will have blood revenge," he said.
Earlier reports identified the target as a “defender of the shrine,” a reference to Iranians who fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq within the Guards' elite Quds force, which oversees operations abroad.
Khodaei was likely behind a series of plots against Israeli businesspeople and diplomats in various countries over the past few months.
Last month, U.K.-based Iran International News Channel reported that an agent of the Quds Force had been commissioned to assassinate three people, including an Israeli consulate employee, in Turkey. Israeli officials said the plot was thwarted by the Mossad.
It is likely that Khodaei was also behind the Iranian plot against Israeli businessman Teddy Sagi in Cyprus, which the Israeli government revealed in October, as well as attempts to harm other Israeli businesspeople in Africa, South America and Turkey.
- How Israel Assassinated Top Iranian Nuclear Scientist With 'Killer Robot'
- Disclosing Mossad Op in Iran, Israel Kills Two Birds With One Stone
- From Lebanon to Jenin: The 'Gray Rhinos' on Israel's Doorstep
Tehran's prosecutor arrived at the crime scene within hours of the killing to investigate and demanded police urgently arrest the perpetrators. The probe’s speed suggested Khodaei's prominence in the murky structure of the Guards' overseas operations.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
Although the Guards gave only scant detail about the attack that occurred in broad daylight in the heart of Iran's capital, the group blamed the killing on “global arrogance,” typically code for the United States and Israel.
That accusation, as well as the style of the brazen attack, raised the possibility of a link with other motorbike slayings previously attributed to Israel in Iran, such as those targeting the country's nuclear scientists.
Security forces were pursuing the suspected assailants, state TV reported, without offering further details or giving a motive for the killing.
A step up
Most of the assassinations of Iranian figures attributed to Israel up until now have been of experts involved in Iran's nuclear program. This includes that of a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was killed in 2020 in an assassination attributed to Israel. A New York Times report said Israel used a high-tech, remote-controlled machine gun to kill Fakhrizadeh.
If Israel is indeed behind Sunday's assassination, this represents a step up in the tensions between the two countries. The killing of a military figure who masterminded plots to attack Israelis is a step forward for an operant who is no longer turning a blind eye to Iranian hostilities.
This process is another link in the chain of attacks attributed to Israel. In March, Iran blamed Israel for the bombing of a drone base near the Iranian city of Kermanshah a month earlier, which caused significant damage to the country's attack drone network. The attack testified to the considerable intelligence the Mossad gathered, alongside the ability to strike deep in Iranian territory.
Khodaei's assassination, as well as the ability to connect him to attacks on Israelis and other Western targets, serves to generate a public discourse that would make it more difficult for the United States to remove the Revolutionary Guards from its list of foreign terror organizations, as well as to increase international pressure on Tehran.
Meanwhile, ISNA reported that members of an Israeli intelligence network were exposed by the Revolutionary Guards Corps in Iran.
"Under the guidance of the Zionist regime's intelligence service, the network attempted to steal and destroy personal and public property, kidnapping and obtaining fabricated confessions through a network of thugs," the IRGC public relations service said in a statement.