A former officer in Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards has been killed in fighting in Syria, Al Arabiya reported on Thursday, citing Iranian media.
The officer, Abdollah Eskandari, had reportedly travelled to Syria to defend the Sayyida Zeinab shrine in Damascus, a Shiite center of pilgrimage.
Hardline Iranian news website Rajanews reported that Eskandari had been “martyred” on May 26, while other sources state that he was killed on May 22.
His body has not been returned to Iran, reports said.
Syrian news websites circulated a photo of a young man holding what was purportedly Eskandari’s decapitated head in his hand, according to Al Arabiya.
Eskandari is one of more than a dozen individuals from Iran who have been killed while participating in the three-year-long conflict, according to Iranian media.
Radio Zamaneh, a Netherlands-based radio station, reported that over 60 Revolutionary Guards officers have been killed in Syria since 2011.
Iran has provided Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad with military support during his fight against the rebels, and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad personally sanctioned the dispatch of officers from the Revolutionary Guards to Syria to fight alongside Assad’s troops.
Two weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that Iran has been recruiting thousands of Afghan refugees to fight in Syria, offering them $500 a month and Iranian residency.
Iran dismissed the claim, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham being quoted as having said they were “unfounded and is aimed at damaging Iran's reputation in Afghanistan”.