The officer, identified as Hassan Tehrani Moqaddam, held a rank parallel to brigadier general in Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, the Fars news agency said. He reportedly served as a researcher at a Tehran university and headed the "Jihad Self-Reliance" unit, mostly tasked with developing arms and missiles following the embargo imposed on Iran since 1979.
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Saturday's blast killed at least 17 people and wounded 16 others, some of them gravely. Earlier reports put the number of fatalities at 27, but a Revolutionary Guards spokesman said the numbers were inflated as result of a "fax error." The official apologized to the Iranian people for the supposed error.
'Missile base hit in blast'
Iranian officials said the explosion was an accident that took place while munitions were being moved inside the military base. However, according to opposition reports the base where the huge blast took place is home to a Revolutionary Guards missile unit and holds long-rang Shihab-3 missiles.
A former spokesman for the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK, in Washington, citing reliable sources inside Iran, said Saturday that the explosion hit the Modarres Garrison of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps west of Tehran. Alireza Jafarzadeh said the garrison belongs to the IGRC's missile unit and the blasts "resulted from the explosion of IRGC missiles."
Although Iranian reports did not refer to the possibility that the base was struck from the air, some assessments indicate that the explosion may have been the result of a military operation based on intelligence information.
Tehran Police Chief Ahmad-Reza Radan said that a specialized team has been dispatched to the scene to examine the circumstances surrounding the blast.
AP contributed to the story
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