DUBAI (Reuters) - A commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has been killed in Syria after volunteering to defend a Shi‘ite shrine in Damascus, the Iranian Mehr news agency said on Monday.
Commander Mohammad Jamalizadeh of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the southeastern province of Kerman was killed in the last few days by “Wahhabi terrorists”, the agency said, giving no more details.
The report could not be independently confirmed.
Jamalizadeh was a veteran of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and then served in anti-smuggling units. He did not travel to Syria for the IRGC, but volunteered to defend the Sayyida Zainab mosque in the southern suburbs of Damascus, Mehr said.
The area around the mosque revered by Shi‘ites as the burial site of a grand-daughter of the prophet Mohammad has been the scene of heavy fighting.
Jamalizadeh’s funeral is to take place on Tuesday in Kerman, capital of the province of the same name.
Western diplomats say Iran, an ally of President Bashar al-Assad, provides billions of dollars of aid and an undisclosed number of military advisers to Syria.
Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah group openly acknowledges its guerrillas are fighting for Assad, but Tehran denies its troops have been engaged directly in combat in Syria.
“As we have said many times before, Iran has no battalions in Syria and only advisers are present to transfer their defensive experience to the defenders of that country,” Sepah news agency quoted General Ramazan Sharif, head of public relations for IRGC, as saying on Monday.
Video footage seized and posted online by Syrian rebels in September showed armed Iranians in military uniform working on the front lines alongside Syrian government soldiers. Iranian media later reported that both the cameraman and the Iranian commander in the footage had been killed.
Reporting by Marcus George; Editing by Jon Hemming and Alistair Lyon