17 IRANIS KILLED IN BIDGANEH MILITARY BASE EXPLOSION
Seventeen soldiers have been killed in an explosion at a military base near Iran’s capital Tehran, on Saturday 11/12/2011 noon, officials said.
The blast occurred when weapons, allegedly, were being moved inside a Revolutionary Guards depot, a spokesman for the elite unit told state TV. Local MP Hossein Garousi said “a large part of an ammunition depot exploded,” parliament’s website reported.
Windows in nearby buildings were shattered and the blast was heard in central Tehran, 40 km (25 miles) away.
Revolutionary Guards spokesman Ramezan Sharif did not say what had caused the “accident” in the village of Bidganeh, near the city of Karaj. “Some of the casualties are reported to be in a critical condition,” he said. Ramezan Sharif denied what he said was speculation of Western Media that the military base was linked to Iran’s nuclear program. An emergency worker said that 12 people had been taken to hospital.
According to past reports by Iranian opposition groups, already in 2002, the village of Bidganeh, about 45 km North-West to the capital Tehran, is where the Fifth Raad Missile Brigade is stationed in “Sajad” base. The brigade is responsible for launching long range ballistic Shahab 3 and 4 missiles, the most advanced in the Iranian ballistic arsenal. Satellite images of the site reveal two large military bases near the village. It is not yet fully confirmed that the accident occurred in the same “Sajad” missile base.
The Revolutionary Guard has been targeted by UN sanctions aimed at pressuring Iran to halt uranium enrichment (see -IAEA Report 2011).
According to the Iranian Fars news agency, later on Saturday 11/12/2011, Brigadier Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moqaddam (pic) was among the Iranian officers killed in the blast. Brigadier Hassan Tehrani served as a researcher at a Tehran university and headed the “Jihad Self-Reliance” unit, mostly tasked with developing arms and missiles following the embargo imposed on Iran since 1979.
In an obituary published by the Revolutionary Guards, Hassan Tehrani Moqaddam is described as a “shahid (martyr)” and one of the key figures in Iran’s missile program. The Guards vowed to continue in Moqaddam’s “path.”
** Iranian armed forces chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi denied, on Wednesday 11/16/2011, that Israel was behind the blast. Speaking to ISNA he said that the blast occurred during research on weapons that could strike Israel.
“This recent incident and blast has no link to Israel or America but the outcome of the research, of which the incident happened as a consequence, could be a strong smack to the mouth of Israel and its occupying regime,” he said.
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