Statue of slain Iranian commander Qassim Soleimani set on fire hours after it is unveiled

A statue of assassinated Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was vandalised hours after its inauguration in an Iranian provincial capital on Wednesday, in a rare act of defiance undercutting official veneration of the late military leader. 

The six-metre high statue was set on fire hours after its official unveiling in Shahrekord, near Esfahan, where it was installed to commemorate the commander, who was killed by a US drone in Baghdad two years ago, the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency reported.

The perpetrators were unknown, said Mohammad Ali Nekonam, a provincial representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, calling it a “brazen act” of desecration.

It was not clear whether the statue was severely damaged but its vandalism contrasted sharply with portrayals of Soleimani – who led the republic’s elite Qods force and masterminded campaigns in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon – as a widely loved hero inside Iran. 

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians in cities across the country attended funeral processions for the commander in January 2020. At least 56 people died and thousands were injured in crushes and stampedes as huge crowds thronged the streets of Solelimani’s home city of Kerman.

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