Two Iranian military commanders were killed in Syria amid reports that Iran has sent troops to join a planned offensive against insurgents by the Syrian Army.
Colonel Farshad Hasounizadeh and Brigadier Hamid Mokhtarband, both commanders in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), were killed in southern Syria while fighting “terrorists,” the hard-line Fars news agency reported on October 13.
The report said Hasounizadeh had formerly headed an elite unit of the IRGC.
Fars said both men were veterans of Iran’s 1980-88 war against Iraq.
Their deaths come just days after another senior IRGC commander, Hossein Hamedani, was killed in Syria while reportedly advising the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The IRGC said last week that Hamedani was “martyred” on October 8 by Islamic State militants on the outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.
Meanwhile, Western news agencies have quoted unnamed regional sources and Syrian activists who say Iran has sent hundreds of troops into Syria in recent days to help with a ground offensive by Syrian government troops against rebels in Aleppo.
The reports come amid air strikes by Russia that, according to Syrian opposition forces and Western governments, are aimed at strengthening Assad’s regime.
Russia says the purpose of its military campaign is to weaken the extremist group Islamic State (IS).
Iran has in the past denied sending troops to Syria.
But Tehran says it does provide its main regional ally with financial aid and military support.
In recent months, a number of Iranians killed in the fighting in Syria have been buried in Iranian cities.
Iranian media refer to them as “volunteers” who go to Syria to defend a holy shrine and fight “terrorists,” a term used in the Islamic republic to refer to all anti-Assad forces -- including Western-backed moderate opposition fighters who are fighting against Islamic State militants and against militants from the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and Fars