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February 14, 2013

Iran Mourns Senior Commander Killed in Syria

by VOA News

A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander killed inside Syria was buried Thursday in Tehran.

Several high-ranking officials, including Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and Revolutionary Guards chief general Mohammad Ali Jafari, as well as senior clerics, attended the funeral for General Hassan Shateri.

Iranian officials said Shateri was shot and killed Tuesday while traveling from Damascus to Beirut.  A spokesman for the Revolutionary Guards blamed the attack on "mercenaries and supporters" of Israel.  

Syrian rebel groups offered varying accounts of his death. The Free Syrian Army said he died in an Israeli air strike last month on a Syrian military center near Damascus, while other rebels said he was killed earlier this week near the Lebanese border.

Iranian officials and semi-official media outlets said Shateri was in charge of reconstruction projects in southern Lebanon. Iran is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a supporter of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

As a member of Iran's elite Quds Force, Shateri was required to have a pseudonym and was also known as Hessam Khoshnevis.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned that the longer the Syrian conflict goes on, the greater the risk that battle-hardened militants who have fought there will carry out terrorist attacks in Britain and other European countries.

Hague, speaking in London, called Syria "the number one destination for jihadists anywhere in the world today." He said this includes a number of individuals "connected with the United Kingdom and other European countries."

On the ground in Syria, rebels and fighters from the al-Qaida affiliated al-Nusra front seized the town of Shadadeh, near the border with Iraq.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 100 Syrian soldiers loyal to President Assad and 30 jihadists were killed during three days of fighting in the area.