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Iranian official: Over 1,000 fighters killed in Syria

More than 1,000 fighters sent by Iran to Syria have been killed to date, said Muhammad Ali Shahidi Mahallati

Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) carry the caskets of Iran

BEIRUT- More than 1,000 fighters sent by Iran to the Syrian battlefield have been killed to date, according to an Iranian official quoted in the Tehran-based Tasnim News Agency.

 

“The number of martyred defenders of shrines […] has exceeded 1,000,” said Muhammad Ali Shahidi Mahallati, head of the state-run Foundation of Martyrs’ and Veterans’ Affairs, in a speech before a gathering of Basij militants Tuesday. The “defense of the shrines” is a term used by Tehran for its intervention in Syria, referring to sacred Islamic sites revered especially by Shiite Muslims, such as Damascus’ Sayyida Zeinab mausoleum.

 

It was unclear whether Mahallati referred exclusively to Iranian nationals, or also to fighters of other nationalities dispatched by Tehran to fight on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime. Thousands of Afghan Shiite militants have been recruited by Iran and sent to Syria, in addition to a smaller number of Pakistani nationals.

 

In April 2016, Tehran announced it was sending units of its 350,000-strong regular army, known as the Artesh, to Syria, in the first deployment of its kind since the 1980-88 war with Iraq. Those units joined Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) personnel who had been present on the ground since 2012, as well as Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite militias, which also fall under Iran’s broader command and control umbrella.

Iranian militants have been operating directly and indirectly in Syria since at least 2012 (ATTA KENARE/AFP)

It was unclear whether Mahallati referred exclusively to Iranian nationals, or also to fighters of other nationalities dispatched by Tehran to fight on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime