Iranian Guards commander killed in Syria

Thu Feb 14, 2013 7:21pm EST
 

By Dominic Evans and Mariam Karouny

BEIRUT (Reuters) - An Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander has been killed inside Syria by rebels battling Iran's close ally President Bashar al-Assad, Iranian officials and a rebel leader said on Thursday .

Syrian rebels have repeatedly accused Tehran of sending fighters to help Assad crush the 22-month-old uprising, a charge Iran has denied.

The Iranian embassy in Lebanon said the dead man, Hessam Khoshnevis, was in charge of Tehran's reconstruction assistance in Lebanon. It said he was killed by "armed terrorist groups", a label used by the Syrian government to describe Assad's foes, on the road to Lebanon as he returned from Damascus.

A Syrian opposition commander said the attack was carried out by rebel fighters near the Syrian town of Zabadani close to the Lebanese border.

Iran has strongly backed Assad during the uprising in which the United Nations says nearly 70,000 people have been killed. In September Iran's Revolutionary Guards commander-in-chief said the force was providing non-military support in Syria and may get involved militarily if there is foreign intervention.

Last year Syrian rebels kidnapped 48 Iranians who they said were Revolutionary Guards fighters and authorities in Tehran described as pilgrims. They released them this year in a prisoner swap with Syrian authorities.

Details of Khoshnevis's killing, which Iranian news agencies said happened on Tuesday, were sketchy and Iran's envoy to Beirut drew a link with Israel.

Forty eight hours after his death no rebel brigade had claimed responsibility but He said he did not have more details.   Continued...

 
Iran's ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi (L) accepts condolences for the death of Hessam Khoshnevis, Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander in charge of Tehran's reconstruction assistance in Lebanon, at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut February 14, 2013. REUTERS/Sharif Karim