by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) Nov 12, 2011
A massive explosion at a Revolutionary Guards base just west of the Iranian capital on Saturday killed 17 members of the elite force, including a top commander, officials said, revising the toll down from 27.
"Unfortunately the fax that I received from the site of the incident was not legible, and the figure 27 was announced, whereas the number of martyrs stands at 17," commander Ramezan Sharif said.
According to state television, Hassan Tehrani Moqaddam, a Guards commander in charge of the force's self-sufficiency unit, was killed in the blast.
An emergency official, Mojtaba Khaledi, quoted by the Mehr news agency, said 23 people were injured in the blast and taken to nearby hospitals.
Sharif said some of those injured were in critical condition, adding that the blast occurred as "ammunition was taken out of the depot and was being moved outside toward the appropriate site."
The explosion shortly after 1 pm (0930 GMT) rocked the ammunition depot of the base in Bid Ganeh, near the town of Malard on the western outskirts of Tehran, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the city centre, according to media reports.
It shattered the windows of residential neighbourhoods in the western suburbs of Tehran, witnesses told AFP. It was heard in the city centre.
The deputy head of the national security commission, Esmaeel Kosari, said parliament would open a probe into the blast, the ISNA news agency reported.
Hossein Garousi, a lawmaker from the area, ruled out the blast being the result of "an act of sabotage or in any way political." He told parliament's website the blast had destroyed "a large part of the ammunition depot."
Helicopters and ambulances were dispatched to the area, ISNA quoted an official at Tehran's medical emergency centre, Hassan Abbasi, as saying.
Earlier, a Mehr news agency reporter said two hours after the blast, a fire was still raging, and that there were huge traffic jams on roads leading to the base.
In October 2010, a blast at a Guards ammunition storage in the western city of Khorramabad killed 18 of its members and left dozens injured.
Set up after the Islamic revolution of 1979 to defend it against internal and external threats, the Guards have emerged as a powerful military and economic force in Iran in recent years.
The Guards and some of its industrial wings have been targeted by international sanctions for their role in Iran's controversial pursuit of nuclear energy and for involvement in the crackdown that followed the disputed presidential election in 2009.
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