Death of Iranian colonel fuels conflicting reports over how he died

Death of Iranian colonel at his home fuels conflicting reports over how he died – as Tehran denies elite military official was assassinated

  • Colonel Ali Esmailzadeh died during ‘incident in his residence’, state media said
  • Iranian state news agency denied reports that the colonel was assassinated
  • Esmailzadeh’s death comes just weeks after Colonel Hassan Khodaei killed
  • Iran has reported the death of another colonel of the elite Quds force of its Revolutionary Guards, the second in two weeks from the unit which oversees Iran’s military operations abroad.

    Colonel Ali Esmailzadeh died during an ‘incident in his residence’ days ago in the city of Karaj, some 19 miles northwest of the capital of Tehran, reported the official IRNA news agency, citing an informed source. 

    It did not elaborate on the circumstances surrounding Esmailzadeh’s death, but denied reports that the colonel was assassinated.

    The denial comes as other news channels close to the Guard said Esmailzadeh fell from his rooftop or balcony.

    Esmailzadeh’s death came just weeks after two unidentified gunmen on a motorbike shot Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, 50, five times in a car in front of his residence in Tehran on May 22. 

    Colonel Ali Esmailzadeh died during an 'incident in his residence' days ago in the city of Karaj, some 19 miles northwest of the capital of Tehran, reported the official IRNA news agency, citing an informed source

    Colonel Ali Esmailzadeh died during an ‘incident in his residence’ days ago in the city of Karaj, some 19 miles northwest of the capital of Tehran, reported the official IRNA news agency, citing an informed source

    The two assailants shot Khodaei in his unarmored Iranian-made Kia Pride, state media said, right off a highly secure street home to Iran’s parliament. 

    Iran blamed his slaying on the United States and its allies, including Israel, and vowed to avenge his death. Iran traditionally blames Israel for such targeted killings, including those on nuclear scientists over the past years.

    It was the most high-profile killing inside Iran since the November 2020 murder of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh – an act the Islamic republic also blamed on its arch enemy Israel.

    Esmailzadeh's death came just weeks after two unidentified gunmen on a motorbike shot Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, 50, five times in a car in front of his residence in Tehran on May 22 (pictured: the scene)

    Esmailzadeh’s death came just weeks after two unidentified gunmen on a motorbike shot Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, 50, five times in a car in front of his residence in Tehran on May 22 (pictured: the scene)

    IRNA said an investigation had been opened into the death of Esmailzadeh, without giving further details.

    Tasnim news agency said ‘Ali Esmailzadeh died after falling from the terrace of his house, which did not have adequate protection’, without giving further details on his identity.

    Meanwhile, reports identified Khodaei only as a ‘defender of the shrine,’ a reference to Iranians who fight against the extremist Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq within the Guard’s elite Quds force that oversees foreign operations. 

    A Mourner hold poster of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei during his funeral ceremony in Tehran on May 24

    A Mourner hold poster of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei during his funeral ceremony in Tehran on May 24

    Little information was publicly available about Khodaei, as Quds officers tend to be shadowy figures carrying out secretive military missions supporting Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, and other militias in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

    The Tehran prosecutor arrived at the crime scene within hours of the killing of Khodaei to investigate and demanded police urgently arrest the perpetrators. The probe’s speed suggested Khodaei’s prominence in the murky structure of the Guard’s overseas operations.

    Those operations have come under repeated Israeli air attack in Syria. An Israeli strike near the Syrian capital of Damascus killed two Guard members in March, prompting Iran to retaliate by firing a missile barrage into northern Iraq.

    The Guards are designated as a terrorist group by the United States.