Huge blast kills 17 at Iran military base

Sat Nov 12, 2011 12:41pm EST
 
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By Ramin Mostafavi

TEHRAN (Reuters) - A massive explosion at a military arms depot near the Iranian capital Tehran on Saturday killed 17 Revolutionary Guards and wounded 15, a spokesman for the elite fighting force told the semi-official Fars news agency.

Officials said the blast was an accident which happened as troops were moving munitions at a base in Bidganeh, near the town of Shahriar, some 45 km (28 miles) west of Tehran.

The explosion shook homes and rattled windows for miles around, at a time of mounting tension with Israel over Iran's nuclear program.

"Today at 13:30, (0900 GMT), an explosion happened in one of the Revolutionary Guards' bases while a consignment of explosive devices was being moved out from the arsenal, besides that some munitions in the arsenal exploded which created a terrifying sound," Revolutionary Guards spokesman Ramezan Sharif told state

TV.

Sharif initially said 27 people had been killed but later revised that figure down to 17.

Residents in western suburbs of Tehran told Reuters they had felt the blast, some assuming it to be a moderate earthquake.

The explosion started a fire at the base which raged for hours. Surrounding streets were closed and reporters were kept away from the scene.   Continued...