iran - AP - June 28 2011
Iranian clerics wait for launch of a Shahab-2 missile, Qom, Iran, June 28, 2011. Photo by AP
Text size

An Iranian exile group claimed Saturday that a blast near Tehran hit a missile base run by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, disputing the Iranian government's account that it occurred at an ammunition depot.

Former Mujahedin-e Khalq spokesman Alireza Jafarzadeh, citing what he called reliable sources inside Iran, said that the explosion hit the Modarres Garrison of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps west of Tehran. The group, also known as the MEK, has in the past disclosed the sites of several key Iranian nuclear installations as well as details of their operations.

Jafarzadeh, now an author and commentator critical of Tehran's clerical regime, said the Modarres Garrison belongs to the IGRC's missile unit and the blasts "resulted from the explosion of IRGC missiles." He did not say what triggered the explosion.

The blast comes just days after a new report by the UN's nuclear watchdog agency that Iran is conducting nuclear weapons-related research and follows unconfirmed reports that Israel was considering a military strike on Tehran's nuclear program.

Iranian officials said the blast was accidental and happened when soldiers were moving ammunition at a depot west of Tehran. Officials said 17 soldiers were killed.

Iran's gas pipelines and military installations have been hit by several mysterious blasts in recent years, and Iran has accused the West of engaging in a campaign of sabotage and assassination against the regime. But an Iranian lawmaker Saturday ruled out sabotage at the blast site.

A spokesman for the Revolutionary Guards - Iran's elite military force - said Saturday's blast happened as troops were moving munitions at a base in Bidganeh, near the town of Shahriar.

According to past reports by Iranian opposition groups, the village of Bidganeh is where the Fifth Raad Missile Brigade is stationed. The brigade is responsible for launching Shahab 3 and 4 missiles. Satellite images of the site reveal two large military bases near the village.