Qassim Soleimani's aide, leader of Iran's Basij militia, assassinated in south-western Iran

Masked gunmen shot dead Iran's Basij militia commander on Tuesday in front of his home in the south-western Iranian province of Khuzestan. Abdolhossein Mojaddami was an ally of the leader of Iran's Quds Force, General Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated in US drone strikes at Baghdad International Airport in the early morning of January 3. A week later, Iran retaliated by firing over a dozen missiles at the Iraqi military bases of Al Asad and Erbil, which housed US and coalition troops. Eleven US soldiers suffered minor injuries in the attack.

Abdolhosein Mojaddami

Shot by motorcycle-borne gunmen

Mojaddami was gunned down by two masked gunmen on a motorcycle in the city of Darkhovin in the oil-rich southwestern province of Khuzestan, Reuters reported citing Iran's IRNA news agency.

The gunmen were armed with an assault rifle and a hunting rifle and a total of four shots were fired.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack and the motive behind the assault is unclear. IRNA described Mojaddami as one of the "defenders of the shrine", a reference used to describe members of security forces who have fought in recent conflicts in Iraq or Syria.

The Basij militia is a force under Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC), the most powerful Iranian armed force, designated a terrorist organization by the United States. Basij is a volunteer organisation operating under the Guards, deployed for internal security.

What could be the reason for Mojaddami's assassination?

Basij units were involved in violent clashes with demonstrators since protests broke out in the west Asian nation in November over fuel price hike. Scores of protesters have been either killed or injured in the violent clashes.

Amnesty International pegged the number of those killed in the November protests at 200, while the Iranian government downplayed the numbers to a huge extent.

While Mojaddami was the commander of the Basij unit, responsible for Iran's internal security, Soleimani was the leader of its Quds Forces, the foreign wing of the Guards Corp.