Iran holds funeral for general killed in Iraq
An Iraqi soldier stand guard after a military operation to regain control of villages around the town of Beiji - AP

TEHRAN, Iran: Iran held a funeral on Monday for a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guard who was killed during a battle against the Islamic State extremist group in Iraq.

State TV said the funeral for Brig. Gen. Hamid Taqavi was held in a Guard compound in Tehran. He will be buried in his hometown Ahvaz in southeastern Iran on Tuesday.

The Guard said Sunday that Taqavi was “martyred while performing his advisory mission” in Samarra, a town north of Baghdad that is home to a major Shiite shrine. He is the highest ranking Iranian officer known to have been killed abroad since the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, in which he fought.

Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, told mourners at the funeral that Taqavi had died defending Iran from extremists, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

“Some ask, what is the link between Taqavi and Samarra? The answer is very clear. If Taqavi and his colleagues do not give blood in Samarra, we should give blood,” in Iran, he said.

Shamkhani said Taqavi was a veteran Guard member who had close contacts with the Iraqi armed opposition when the country was ruled by Saddam Hussein.

Predominantly Shiite Iran says it has sent military advisers to assist Syria and Iraq in battling Sunni-led rebels and extremist groups, but has denied sending combat forces.

Iran says it has played a key role in pushing back the Islamic State group following the extremists’ summer blitz, in which they captured much of northern and western Iraq. But Tehran insists its officers are only providing military advice and training.

Iran’s efforts in Iraq have been led by Maj. Gen. Ghasem Soleimani, commander of the Guard’s elite and secretive Quds Force. In recent months pictures have surfaced showing Soleimani meeting with Iraqi commanders on various battlefields.

Following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, American commanders repeatedly accused the Quds Force of backing Shiite militias implicated in attacks on American troops and Sunni civilians, charges denied by Tehran.

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