By Golnaz Esfandiari. RFE/RL
Aformer officer with Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has been killed in the fighting in Syria, Iranian media report. The reports say that Abdollah Eskandari had travelled to Syria to defend the Sayida Zeinab shrine located in the southern suburbs of Damascus. The shrine is a center of pilgrimage for Shi'a from around the world.
The hard-line Rajanews reported that Eskandari, who according to the report headed the Martyrs Foundation in Fars Province until 2013, was "martyred" on May 26.
Other news sites reported that he was killed a few days earlier, on May 22. Eskandari's body has reportedly not been sent back to Iran yet.
In past months, Iranian media reported that more than a dozen Iranians, including members of the Revolutionary Guards, were killed in Syria. According to the reports, those individuals had traveled to Syria voluntarily to defend the holy shrine.
The Netherlands-based Radio Zamaneh put the number of IRGC officers killed in Syria since 2011 at more than 60.
The burial of at least one of them, IRGC officer Mohammad Jamali, wasattended by the head of IRGC's Qods Force, Qassem Soleimani, who is said to be in charge of the guards' overseas operations.
Iranian officials deny accusations that the Islamic republic is sending forces to Syria to assist Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. IRGC commanders and other officials claim Tehran provides only humanitarian and economic assistance, as well as technical help to Assad's regime.
Last week, Iran denied a report by "The Wall Street Journal" that it was sending Afghans to fight in Syria. "The Wall Street Journal" said elite forces of Iran's Revolutionary Guards were offering residency in Iran and monthly payments of $500 to Afghan refugees who agreed to go to Syria to fight.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham dismissed the report as "unfounded."
Earlier this month, an Iranian website posted pictures of what it described as the "glorious" funeral of two Afghans who, according to the report, had been killed in Syria by "terrorists." The two were identified as Hassan Mahmudi and Seyed Ahmad Hosseini.
The funeral in Qom was reportedly attended by the hard-line Ayatollah Haeri Shirazi, who congratulated the families of the two young men over their "martyrdom."
Copyright (c) 2014 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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