Former Iranian interior minister and one of the founders of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Ali Akbar Mohtashamipur, has died of COVID-19, the US-funded Iranian broadcast service Radio Farda reported Tuesday, based on local reports.
This was later confirmed by multiple news outlets, including the Associated Press.
Mohtashamipur, 74, was a Shi’ite cleric who, according to religious tradition, was a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, AP reported. He was a steadfast ally of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who overthrew the government in the 1979 Iranian Revolution and established the Islamic Republic of Iran.
After having formed multiple alliances with Islamic militant groups in the region, Mohtashamipur would later play a role in the founding of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), AP reported.
Later, while serving as Iran’s ambassador to Syria, he would help with the merging of multiple radical groups and form the Iran-backed Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist organization Hezbollah, which remains a powerful force in the region and is one of Iran’s most infamous proxies.
In addition, he is believed by some to have overseen Hezbollah suicide bombing attacks, such as the 1983 attack against the US Embassy in Beirut. Iran and Hezbollah continue to deny involvement in these attacks, but the US believes otherwise, AP reported.
Mohtashamipur was also famous for having been the target of an Israeli assassination attempt in 1984. According to author and journalist Ronen Bergman, an assassination attempt on Mohtashamipur was personally signed off on by prime minister Yitzhak Shamir. The operation involved a package marked as containing a book on Shi’ite holy places that was sent to the former ambassador and detonated.
The attack severely wounded Mohtashamipur, and he lost a hand. Israeli involvement was suspected in the attack, but it was unconfirmed until revealed by Bergman in 2018.
Though a member of Iran’s hard-line radicals for a large portion of his career, Mohtashamipur would later join the reformists and disputed the controversial 2009 reelection of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
After this, he began living in the holy Shi’ite city of Najaf, Iraq, for 10 years.
Mohtashamipur died in a hospital in Tehran, according to Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), the official state news agency.
Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi, a hard-liner who is considered by many to be the front-runner in Iran’s upcoming presidential election, offered his condolences to Mohtashamipur’s family.
“The deceased was one of the holy warriors on the way to the liberation of Jerusalem and one of the pioneers in the fight against the usurping Zionist regime,” he was quoted by IRNA as saying, AP reported.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.