Iranian army special forces officer killed in Syria fighting

Iranian army special forces officer killed in Syria fighting
Iran has confirmed the death of the first officer from the army's commando force, which was deployed to Syria in an 'advisory' role last week.
2 min read
11 April, 2016
Hundreds of Iranian Revolutionary Guard fighters have already been killed fighting in Syria [AFP]
A member of Iran's special forces has been killed in fighting in Syria, making the officer the first confirmed casualty from the Iranian army.

Mohsen Qitaslo was part of Iran's Brigade 65, an airborne commando division in the country's conventioned military force.

Websites affiliated to the Republican Guards confirmed the death of Qitaslo saying "the Iranian army sacrificed its first martyr", but did not say where or how the officer was killed.

Iran's presence in Syria is unclear, but hundreds of fighters from the Revolutionary Guard - which operates seperately from the regular Iranian military - are thought to have been killed in battles against the Syrian opposition and the Islamic State group.

Tehran has been one of President Bashar al-Assad's strongest international allies in the six-year war and believed to have sent thousands of Iranian Revolutionary Guard militants to help prop up the embattled regime.

With the Syrian army suffering from manpower shortages after a failed conscription drive, Iran-backed foreign fighters - many from Pakistan and Afghanistan - have been vital to plugging in the holes and key to recent regime offensives.

This includes the regime's capture of Palmyra from IS in late March.

Last week Tehran had said that special forces units have been sent to Syria as advisers, but would not be involved in fighting.

"The 65th Brigade is part of the army and we dispatch forces from the 65th Brigade, as well as other units, to Syria as advisors, but this deployment is not particular to the 65th Commando Brigade," Amir Ali Arasteh, deputy coordinator of the Iranian army, told Iranian state news last week.

Many of the troops are thought to be based in Aleppo, where pro-regime forces have been involved in heavy clashes with Syrian rebel fighters, including al-Nusra Front.

Iranian presence in Aleppo province is strong through the Tehran-backed Hizballah force and a number of Iranian-led Shia militias.

Hossein Hamedani, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander, was killed in fighting last October in Aleppo, where he was overseeing Iran's overseas Quds Force in the city.

[click to enlarge]