Iran holds memorial service for ‘Afghan volunteers’ killed in Syria
TEHRAN - Iran was to hold a memorial service on Tuesday for seven Afghans killed fighting alongside the forces of its close ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Iranian media reported.
Among the dead was the commander of Afghan volunteer unit the Fatemiyoun Brigade, the government daily Iran reported.
Alireza Tavassoli was killed in Daraa province, south of Damascus, on February 28 during heavy fighting with Syria's Al-Qaeda branch Al-Nusra Front, the Rajanews.com website reported.
It said all seven of the dead being commemorated in Iran's second city Mashhad were Afghan volunteers.
The Wall Street Journal reported last May that Iran was recruiting Afghan refugees to fight in Syria, in exchange for $500 a month and residency permits.
Iran's foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham at the time dismissed the report as an "insult to the people of Afghanistan."
Iranian media have reported many Iranian deaths in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.
But the authorities insist nearly all were volunteers who had gone to help guard the Shiite holy places in the two countries against Sunni extremists from the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda.
The government acknowledges that it has a small number of military advisers in both Iraq and Syria but denies having any combat troops on the ground.
Revolutionary Guards General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi was killed along with six fighters of Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah in an Israeli air strike in Syria on January 18.
Brigadier General Hamid Taghavi was killed in the Iraqi shrine city of Samarra in December while advising Iraqi troops on the war against IS.