Iran arrests three suspects in gun murder of two Sunni Muslim clerics

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Iranian police have arrested three suspects in the recent gun murder of two Sunni Muslim clerics, the head of the judicial authority of the northern province of Golestan said Tuesday.

Investigators had found that the three, also Sunnis, had “no connection with terrorist groups,” the official, Heydar Asyabi, was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

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The two clerics were shot dead on April 2 outside a seminary in the town of Gonbad-e Kavus, local media reported.

“Less than a month after the crime, the killer of two Sunni clerics and his two accomplices have been arrested,” Asyabi said, without naming the suspects, adding that the crime had been motivated by a “personal conflict.”

A search of the home of one of the accused uncovered four guns, Asyabi said.

Sunnis make up around five to 10 percent of the nearly 83 million people of Iran, where Shiism has been the state religion since the early 16th century.

The constitution of the Islamic Republic stipulates that Sunnis “are free to perform their religious rites.”

Golestan is a half-Sunni province on the Caspian Sea.

Nearly a week after the Gonbad-e Kavus killings, a Sunni extremist, reportedly of ethnic Uzbek origin, killed two Shia clerics in Iran's most revered place of worship in the northeastern city of Mashhad.

The religious leader of Iran's Sunni minority, Molavi Abdol Hamid, called on Iranian authorities on April 8 to “thoroughly investigate” the two cases, strongly condemning all the murders in a statement on his official website.

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