Qasem Soleimani statue set on fire in Iran
Protesting Iranians have vandalised a statue of assassinated Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, just hours after it was unveiled in the city of Shahrekord, according to the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency.
But, just hours after it was unveiled it was set on fire by "unknown perpetrators" and the motives for the attack remained unclear.
A provincial representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Mohammad Ali Nekonam, branded the vandalism as a “brazen act” of desecration.
“This treacherous crime was carried out in darkness, just like the other crime committed at night at Baghdad airport,” he added.
The extent of the damage was unclear but the attack represents rare public criticism of the much venerated Iranian general.
A clear message from the Iranian people themselves, they know that Qassem Soleimani is a war criminal.. They burned his statue hours after being erected in Shahrekord in the center of Iran. pic.twitter.com/S7ASYP5gz9— Omar Abu Layla (@OALD24) January 6, 2022
In a video of the attack, a column of fire and smoke can been seen as cars drove past.
Soleimani led Iran’s Quds Forces and oversaw military campaigns in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, earning him many plaudits in Iran.
The Iranian general was killed in January 2020, when a US drone strike targeted a vehicle he was travelling in, near Baghdad airport, also killing a prominent Iraqi militia commander.
Since his assassination, numerous statues were erected across Iran celebrating the general.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an exile group, claimed responsibility for the attack on the statue, alleging that “resistance units” attacked it, going on to describe Soleimani as a “mass murderer”.
The NCRI serves as the political wing of the People’s Mujahedin, which seeks to end the rule of the Tehran government, and has subsequently been a proscribed group in Iran for many years.