A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander killed in an explosion at an ammunition depot west of Tehran last week died while testing an intercontinental missile, his brother was quoted by a government newspaper as saying Saturday. Mohammad Tehrani Moghaddam, himself a Guard officer, also said in an interview published Saturday that his brother Gen. Hasan Tehrani Moghaddam had founded the missile unit of the Lebanese Hezbollah group.
Gen. Moghaddam was killed together with 20 other Guard members Nov. 12 at a military site outside Bidganeh village, 25 miles southwest of Tehran. The Guard said the explosion was an accident, and occurred while military personnel were transporting munitions.
But Mohammad Tehrani Moghaddam was quoted by the government-run Iran newspaper as saying that his brother was killed when the weapon exploded during testing. He did not dispute that the explosion was accidental.
"He lost his life while doing a final test of the missile," Moghaddam said. "The project was in the final testing phase. It was related to an intercontinental ballistic missile … It was a completely high-tech, confidential process."
These key quotes were left out of the text printed by the newspaper. They appeared on the paper's website early Saturday, but were deleted later in the day.
The Guard has praised Moghaddam as the founder of the elite unit's surface-to-surface missile capability. In a statement released after the explosion, the Guard said it would not forget Moghaddam's "effective role in the development of the country's defense … and his efforts in launching and organizing the Guard's artillery and missile units."
Moghaddam headed a "self-sufficiency" unit of the Guard's armaments section, it said. In the interview, Mohammed Tehrani Moghaddam said that this brother had set up Hezbollah's missile capability. "Hasan … visited Lebanon and created Hezbollah's missile unit there," he was quoted as saying.
Iran is a key supporter of Hezbollah and is believed to funnel it weapons and millions of dollars in funding, though Tehran denies arming the Shiite group. Hezbollah, also closely allied to Syria, boasts a heavy arsenal of rockets capable of reaching deep inside Israel.
The Revolutionary Guard, Iran's most powerful military force, is in charge of Iran's missile program.
Iran's arsenal boasts missiles with a range of about 1,250 miles that were designed for Israeli and U.S. targets. The missile capability, along with Iran's nuclear program, are among the reasons why Israel considers Iran its most dangerous enemy.
Moghaddam said his brother was also involved in Iran's space program, assisting the rocket that took an Iranian satellite into orbit.
He didn't elaborate but said Hasan was favored by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Moghaddam himself was once Khamenei's bodyguard.
The Guard initially said 17 Guard members were killed in the explosion. The semi-official Mehr news agency listed the names of 21 victims prompting the military force to say some of those critically injured had succumbed to their wounds later.
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