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Senior Iranian official shot dead in Syria

February 14, 2013

Syrian youths attend a military training on January 23, 2013 at a former school turned into a “military academy” in Tlaleen in the northern Syria's Aleppo province. Bored at home and eager to join their older brothers and fathers on the frontline against President Bashar al-Assad's army, Syrian teenagers are joining the rebel cause, oblivious to international laws prohibiting child combatants. — AFP Photo

BEIRUT: Assailants shot dead a senior Iranian official in Syria while he was travelling by road towards the Lebanese capital overnight, the Iranian authorities said on Thursday.

The Iranian embassy in Beirut said “armed terrorists” killed a man it identified as Hessam Khoshnevis, adding that he had been involved in reconstruction work in Lebanon.

The Revolutionary Guards named the slain man as Hassan Shateri, a commander of the elite Iranian military unit, in a statement on its website that said he was killed while travelling from Damascus to Beirut.

“Commander Hassan Shateri was martyred en route from Damascus to Beirut at the hands of Zionist regime mercenaries and backers,” the force's spokesman Ramezan Sherif said in the statement.

Sherif said the man was a Revolutionary Guards commander as well as the head of the Iranian Committee for the Reconstruction of Lebanon.

The embassy named him as “Hassan Shateri known as Hessam Khoshnevis”.

It said he was in charge of the Iranian Committee for the Reconstruction of Lebanon set up after the devastating war in 2006 between Israel and Lebanon's Shia Hezbollah militia, which is supported by Iran.

The embassy statement did not elaborate on the circumstances or the exact location of his death.

According to Lebanese newspaper Al-Safir, “Khoshnevis was in Syria, specifically in the (northern city of) Aleppo, to study projects to reconstruct the city”.

Iran is the main regional backer of Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime, and has admitted Revolutionary Guards members were present in Syria playing a consultative role.