Coffin of Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jamejam Online/Ebrahim Norouzi)
on Monday buried a senior military officer it called the "architect" of
its missile defenses, killed in a massive explosion at a Revolutionary
Guards' arms depot that authorities said was an accident.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attended the ceremony for
Brigadier General Hassan Moqaddam and the 16 other Revolutionary Guards
who died in the explosion at their military base on Saturday. The blast
was so big it was felt in the capital Tehran, some 45 km (28 miles)
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Officials said the accident happened as troops were moving
munitions at the base west of Tehran and have denied suggestions that it
may have been sabotage. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called
for better observance of safety standards at military sites.
On October 12 last year, a similar blast at a Revolutionary Guards munitions store killed and wounded several servicemen in Khoramabad, western Iran. Authorities said that explosion was an accident.
"Martyr Moqaddam was the main architect of the Revolutionary Guards'
canon and missile power and the founder of the deterrent power of our
country," Hossein Salami, the deputy head of the Revolutionary Guards,
said in a eulogy at the funeral, state broadcaster IRIB reported.
The Revolutionary Guards were set up in parallel to the regular army
after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and became a hugely powerful military
and economic body.
A veteran of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, Moqaddam's
importance was underlined by the appearance of Khamenei at his funeral
and a personal visit to his family by Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad
Vahidi to convey Ahmadinejad's condolences.
While there was no indication of any kind of attack, the timing of the
explosion -- amid rising tensions with Israel and the West over Iran's
nuclear program -- was likely to spark speculation about the incident.Nevertheless, a Western intelligence source told TIME magazine Monday that the Mossad was
behind the explosion at the Iranian missile base. "Don't believe the Iranians that it
was an accident," the official was quoted by the the US magazine as
The unnamed official added that more sabotage is being
planned to stop Iran's ability to build nuclear weapons and delivery
systems for them, saying, "There are more bullets in the magazine."
A report published by the United Nations nuclear agency last week that
contained what it called credible evidence pointing to military
dimensions to Iran's atomic activities fueled demands in Washington and
Europe for more sanctions on Tehran and increased talk of using military
strikes to prevent it getting the bomb.
Khamenei responded by saying the Revolutionary Guards would "answer attacks with strong slaps and iron fists".
Military experts say bombing Iran's military sites would be more risky
than similar actions Israel has made in the past in Iraq and reportedly
Iran has said several assassinations of nuclear scientists, and cyber
attacks are covert operations by Israel and its allies to undermine the
atomic work it says is entirely peaceful.