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News | At Least 17 Dead After IRGC Depot Blast

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

12 Nov 2011 20:45Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

At least 17 people, including a general, died as a result of an explosion on a military base near Tehran.

Reports indicate that at around 1:30 p.m. Tehran time (many placed the blast at around 1 or 1:15 p.m. ) there was at least one, and possibly several huge explosions at the Amir-ol-Momenin military base which belongs to the Organization of Self-Sufficiency Jihad. It's where the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) stores its ammunition and explosives. The depot explosion was so powerful that it was even heard in western parts of Tehran. Fars news agency, which is run by the IRGC, has confirmed the explosions.

A Tehran resident who was near Vard-Avard, which is 18 kilometers west of capital, told Tehran Bureau that he spoke to a manager at a nearby factory. "'A forceful wave went through the factory and broke all of the windows and glasses,'" he told him.

"My mother-in-law who lives in Tehran, north of Saadat Abad, heard the bang (the source of which was 20 kilometers to the West of her flat), and was so scared that she ran out and went into the street fearing that there has been an earthquake," he added.

For an aerial view of the location click here.

The explosions occurred in a village called Bidganeh, in a Malard suburb in the Alborz province, west of Tehran. Lieutenant Brigadier General Ramazan Sharif, head of the IRGC public relations department, said that 17 people were killed and that 16 others were injured, some critically. (The IRGC changed its official tally from 27 to 17, attributing the discrepancy to an illegible fax.)

He said that the blasts occurred when explosives were being transferred from a storage area to another location in order to be used (he did not specify the intended use). He also rejected speculations that the explosion may have had something to do with a nuclear-related test.

Mohammad Esmail Kosari, a former IRGC officer and currently the deputy head of the Majles commission on national security and foreign policy, said that security agents have ruled out the possibility of terrorist activity, but said that the cause of the explosion is under investigation. The matter was expected to be discussed Sunday at the commission's meeting.

Separately, Brigadier General Ahmad-Reza Radan, deputy commander of the national police, also said that the cause of explosion is under investigation.

Meanwhile, quoting Guard spokesman General Ramazan Sharif, the Los Angeles Times reported it as an "accidental" explosion, even carrying it in its headline.

The explosions caused massive fires and firemen were deployed from different departments as well as neighboring towns to control the blaze. Rescue dogs were helping with search efforts.

Mahmouid Mozaffar, head of the rescue operation division of Iran's Red Crescent, said that it is possible that other explosions may occur.

He said that thick smoke has slowed down rescue operations. The streets around the military base have been closed by the IRGC, and only six rescue workers have been allowed to enter the base because of the possibility of successive explosions, he said.

Mozaffar added that his organization has also been trying to identify the victims.

While the number of injured was initially said to be 10 and then 16, ISNA, the Iranian Students News Agency, later reported that 23 people had been transferred to several hospitals, and that the rescue operation has ended. ISNA said that rescue personnel will remain at the military base until Sunday morning to ensure that the place is safe.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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