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Explosion at Iran's Shahab Missile Depot


By Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah, Rooz Online

Former Soldier of Bidgene Base Talk to Rooz About Friday's Explosion


While Iranian official and pro-government media published conflicting news over Friday's massive expositions around Tehran and Karaj, one former soldier from the military base where the explosions took place provided specific details to Rooz.

Hamed Ebrahimi who in 2006 worked at the Modarres base for two months told Rooz the base belonged to the Revolutionary Guards' air force and was a main depot for storing various types of Shahab missiles.

A massive explosion on Friday shook an extensive area of Tehran, Karaj and Shahriyar. The blasts were so loud that they could be heard even in East Tehran (the city stretches about 15 miles east-west). Buildings shook and people poured into the streets in shock.

Video footage and witness accounts indicated a large white cloud rising above a part of the city. Mehr news agency reported that the smoke was so thick that it blocked the view even from a 10 kilometer distance (a little over 6 miles) and the fire from the blast continued, at the time of reporting. According to this report, reporters were prevented from entering the base as emergency helicopters hovered above.

Ramezan Sharif in charge of public relations of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) announced that 27 individuals had been killed in the blast, a figure that was later lowered by the IRGC to 17, adding that 16 others had been injured. Prior to this, Mojtaba Khaledi, from the Emergency Operations Center put the number of injured at 23.

Sepah News quoted the IRGC public relations office and announced that General Hassan Moghadam, the commander of the Jihad self reliance division was among the dead.

Coffin of General Hassan Tehrani Moqaddam with his poster in the background

IRGC: Not a Nuclear Test

Ebrahimi said Bidgene military base, near a village by the same name near Karaj, was situated in a mountainous area. According to him, this military center was comprised of two bases, Modarres and Alghadeer. Modarres is an IRGC training center and the second major air base for the IRGC, which houses multiple depots for storing Shahab missiles. Alghadeer base is adjacent to Modarres and acts as its air defense base. Because of the high security status of the base, he expressed doubt if the explosions were caused by terrorist acts or sabotage.

Iran's Shahab3 Missile
Iran's Shahab3 Missile

Reza Sharif, an IRGC public relations officer also said that the explosions were caused because of "relocation of munitions," and added that contrary to speculations by foreign media, the cause of the explosion was not "nuclear testing." Speaking to Khabar Online, a Majlis representative from Tehran, and a former IRGC commander, Esmail Kowsari also rejected the possibility of sabotage and added that the national security committee of parliament would be discussing the issue on Saturday.

Second Explosion at IRGC Bases

On Saturday, Hassan Gharoosi, a Majlis representative from Shahriyar, announced that the massive blast that was heard in Karaj and Tehran was caused by an explosion in a military base near the town of Malard in the province of Tehran. Following that, Fars news agency, which itself belongs to the IRGC, announced that the base belonged to a military-security institution.

Gharoosi said, "The intensity of the explosion and the violent shake were so severe that building windows around it were shattered and people were frightened." He also said that the base was only a munitions depot with no soldiers present on site.

This contrasts with the remarks by Ebrahimi who told Rooz that the base was a training center with many soldiers always on base, where conscript soldiers were in charge of protecting the missile depots.

News confirming this massive explosion came just after Iranian news agencies had reported an explosion at a cylinder gas station, which the National Iranian Gas Company denied. Javad Owji, the managing director of NIGC told Fars news agency that there had been no gas station explosions in Tehran or anywhere in Iran.

This is the second explosion in an important IRGC military base in about a year. In 2010, Imam Ali military base in the province of Lorestan was also the scene of an explosion which killed at least 18 individuals and wounded 14 others. The IRGC then attributed the cause of the blast to be "fire and burning of dried plants in the open which spread to the munitions depot." According to some reports at the time, Shahab missiles were stored at the Imam Ali base.

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