Sunni imam shot dead in northern Iran


Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency says a Sunni cleric who had worked to reconcile Sunnis and Shias, members of the two biggest sects in Islam, was shot and killed on Tuesday in a village in northern Iran.

Molavi Abdolghafur Jamalzahi was an imam at the Reza Abad mosque, near Ramiyan, around 120 kilometres northeast of Tehran in Golestan province. He was shot four times as he returned home from the mosque, IRNA said.

Reza Abad has around 4,000 residents and a "large number of foreigners and refugees", the news agency said.

It said that the authorities have not yet put forward a motive for Jamalzahi's murder, but cited an anonymous source saying it could be linked to "personal hostilities and tribal strife".

Jamalzahi was a Baluchi, an ethnic group that is found in southeastern Iran and western Pakistan.

Iran is a Shia powerhouse, but the country's constitution says Sunnis – who account for 10 percent of the population – are "free to perform their religious rites according to their religious jurisprudence".

Imams who lead Friday prayers, whether Sunni or Shia, are appointed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's highest religious and political authority.    (AFP/AP)

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