Over 1,000 Iranian combatants killed in Syria

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Iranian soldiers carry the coffin of Abdollah Bagheri who was killed in Syria. file photo

More than 1,000 Iranian combatants have been killed in Syria, according to Iran’s Veterans’ affairs office. The Islamic Republic has mustered Shia Islamists from across Asia to fight in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s Government.

“The number of martyrs from our country defending the shrines has now passed 1,000,” said Mohammad Ali Shahidi Mahalati, the head of Iran’s Foundation of Martyrs’ and Veterans’ Affairs. Mahalati did not specify the nationalities of those killed.

Iran has sent Persian military advisers, as well as Afghani and Pakistani militants, to fight alongside the Syrian Army and National Defense Forces. Within Iran, these foreign combatants are collectively known as the “defenders of the shrines,” in reference to Syria’s endangered Shiite holy sites.

The Fatemiyoun Division is the largest Iranian volunteer force currently fighting in Syria. While the division’s ranks are filled with Afghan recruits, Iranian staff officers have been embedded to improve combat effectiveness.

Iranian media outlets regularly report on the deaths of Iranian, Afghan and Pakistani ‘martyrs’ in Syria. Their bodies are returned to Iran for burial.

The Islamic Republic, the dominant Shiite power in the Middle East, denies having any boots on the ground in Syria and insists that the Revolutionary Guards only act as “military advisers.” Iran also claims that their mission is apolitical and restricted to fighting against Sunni extremists, such as the Islamic State.

Agencies  

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