Monday, 14 September 2009

Pro-Ahmadinejad cleric killed in west Iran-report

TEHRAN, Sept 13 (Reuters) - A Sunni cleric who backed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran's disputed June election has been killed in a Kurdish-populated region, a semi-official news agency reported on Sunday.

Fars News Agency said Borhan Aali, a Friday prayers leader in the city of Sanandaj in western Kurdistan province, was killed by unknown assailants late on Saturday at his home. State radio said he was shot several times. "He was a prominent cleric in Kurdistan province who worked for Ahmadinejad in the course of the election. He was accepted and respected by all of the people of Sanandaj," Fars said.

Governor Mohammad-Taqi Heydari of Sanandaj, the provincial capital, said he believed the attack was linked to hardline Sunni groups seeking to stir discord.
"This incident has been in line with the enemy's plots to make it appear that the city in unsafe," he said. "They want to create discord in the region by carrying out such plots."

Kurdistan province, bordering Iraq, is the scene of frequent clashes between Kurdish guerrillas and Iranian security forces.
Like neighbouring Iraq and Turkey, Iran has a large Kurdish minority, mainly living in the country's northwest and west. Iran is a mainly Shi'ite Muslim country, but most Kurds are Sunni Muslims.

The reformist opposition says the June presidential poll, which was followed by opposition protests in Tehran and other cities, was rigged to secure Ahmadinejad's re-election. The authorities deny the charge. (Reporting by Hashem Kalantari and Reza Derakhshi; Writing by Fredrik Dahl)

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