Report by RFE/RL; photos by Iranain newspapers
Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Tehran to mourn a soldier beheaded by the extremist Sunni group Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
Crowds carrying pictures of Mohsen Hojaji and red flags, symbolizing martyrdom,
marched to the September 27 funeral, which was attended by parliament speaker
Ali Larijani and other dignitaries.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei performed prayers over Hojaji's coffin at the Imam Hussein Mosque.
Hojaji's body is to be buried on September 28 in his hometown of Najafabad, some
400 kilometers south of Tehran.
Hojaji, a 25-year-old member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), was reportedly captured by IS militants in an ambush near the border with Iraq in early August. Iranian media reported that he was beheaded two days later.
According to Iranian state media, he was a member of Iran's advisory support
team in Syria.
Shi'ite Iran has deployed hundreds of so-called shrine defenders to Syria to assist the government of President Bashar al-Assad fight the IS group.
Images of Hojaji's capture, where the young man appears calm and unfazed, resulted in an outpouring of support and solidarity from citizens, officials, and artists who see him as a symbol of courage and resistance.
The IRGC recovered Hojaji's body through an agreement between the IS group, the Syrian Army, and the Shi'ite Hizballah movement under which IS fighters were allowed to evacuate Syria's western border with Lebanon last month.
Hojaji's death followed the deadly June 7 twin attacks on the Iranian parliament and the mausoleum of the founder of the Islamic republic that were claimed by the IS group. The attacks left 17 dead.
With reporting by AP and Reuters
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