The Friday Prayer Imam of the religious city of Qom, the epicenter of coronavirus outbreak in Iran, told his congregation Saturday that U.S. President Donald Trump targeted the city with coronavirus "to damage its culture and honor".
Most of the coronavirus cases in Iran include people living in Qom and those who have visited the religious city recently. These cases have no clear epidemiological link to the outbreak in China.
Qom is the religious capital of Iran, home to many seminaries and the Shrine of Masoumeh and a bastion for hardliners. The city's economy revolves around the Shrine which thousands of pilgrims from Iran and other countries visit every day.
According to social media users after two deaths were reported in Qom on Thursday the usually crowded streets of the city look abandoned.
Speaking during evening prayers Hojjat ol-Eslam Seyyed Mohammad Saeedi who is also the Custodian of the Shrine of Masoumeh said Trump has targeted the city because Qom is a "shelter for the Shiites of the world, the center of religious seminaries and the city where Shiite sources of emulation live".
"The enemy wants to instill fear in people's hearts, make Qom look like an unsafe city and to take revenge for all its defeats," the Friday Prayer leader said. "Trump will die frustrated in his wish to see Qom defeated," he went on to tell his congregation.
Iranian officials and clerics often make wild accusations against the U.S., Israel and other countries which have disagreements with the Islamic Republic.
According to Saeedi, by targeting Qom Trump is fulfilling his promise of hitting Iranian cultural sites if Iranians took revenge for the U.S. killing of Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani.
Trump had threatened in a January 4 tweet that the U.S. will target "52 Iranian sites … some at a very high level and important to Iran and the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, will be hit very fast and very hard."