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Iran confirms thousands of troops died in Iraq, Syria

Tehran has sent thousands of fighters to Iraq and Syria [AFP]

Date of publication: 7 March, 2017

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Thousands of fighters sent to Iraq and Syria have been killed since the conflict began, the head of Iran's veterans' affairs office said on Tuesday.

More than 2,000 fighters sent by Tehran have been killed in Iraq and Syria since the conflicts began, the head of Iran's veterans' affairs office said on Tuesday.

"Some 2,100 martyrs have been martyred so far in Iraq or other places defending the holy mausoleums," Mohammad Ali Shahidi claimed in statements to the state-run IRNA news agency.

The figure was more than double the number he gave in November, which referred only to Syria. 

Shahidi, who is head of Iran's Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs, was speaking at a conference on martyrdom culture in Tehran.

Iran - and ally Russia - is the main military backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and also organises militias fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq. 

Shahidi did not provide details on the nationalities of those killed, although Iran oversees "volunteer" fighters recruited from among its own nationals as well as Shia communities from Iraq and Lebanon, and in neighbouring Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

The families of those killed in battle are given Iranian citizenship under a law passed last May. 

Tehran refers to the fighters as "defenders of the shrines" - a reference to Shia holy sites in Iraq and Syria. The Iranian regime, which is headed by clerics, has long justified its military incursions in the two Arab nations by citing the threat from Sunni jihadists to those shrines, but experts say the main purpose is linked to Iran's wider geopolitical ambitions.

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