FILE PHOTO: Two clerics stand near a surface to surface missile which is ready to be launched during a war game near the city of Qom, about 120 km (75 miles) south of Tehran. REUTERS

 – A senior conservative Iranian cleric was slightly hurt after being attacked by a man with a knife after Friday prayers in the central city of Isfahan, the state news agency IRNA reported.

Ayatollah Yousef Tabatabai-Nejad’s neck was “scratched” by a knife carried by a man aged about 25 who was detained by security guards, the cleric’s spokesperson, Hassan Shahzeydi, told IRNA.

Semi-official news agencies said the cleric was released after receiving treatment and he appeared unhurt in a video interview with state TV.

“It was a young man who likely had a problem and who suddenly attacked and he wasn’t able to do anything – except a blow hit my neck – but he was held back. His motives have to be investigated,” Ayatollah Yousef Tabatabai-Nejad, Isfahan’s Friday prayers imam, said in the interview.

There have been weeks of unrest in Iran after a jump in food prices and amid public anger against leaders in the Islamic government and powerful clerics over a deadly building collapse last month that was widely blamed on corruption and lax safety measures. Read full story

Attacks on clerics and government officials have been rare in Iran after authorities tightened security measures and cracked down on opposition groups following a string of attacks and bombings that killed dozens of officials and clerics following the 1979 Islamic revolution.

In April, two Iranian clerics were stabbed to death and one other was injured at the country’s largest Shi’ite Muslim religious complex in the northeastern city of Mashhad. Officials said the attacker was a 21-year-old ethnic Uzbek from Afghanistan with Sunni radical views.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroomEditing by Toby Chopra and Frances Kerry)

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