[QODLink]
Middle East

Iranian pilot killed fighting in Iraq

Iran's official news agency says colonel was killed while defending a Shia Muslim shrine in the city of Samarra.

Last updated: 05 Jul 2014 11:40
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Iran says it has not sent troops to Iraq to fight a Sunni rebellion [AFP]

An Iranian pilot has been killed while fighting in Iraq, in what is thought to be the first military casualty that Tehran officially acknowledged during battles against Sunni fighters led by the Islamic State group.

Iran's official IRNA news agency said on Saturday that Colonel Shoja'at Alamdari Mourjani was killed while "defending" the Shia Muslim holy sites in the city of Samarra, north of Baghdad.

Al Jazeera's Imran Khan, reporting from Baghdad, said there were no reports of a plane being shot down in Iraq and the pilot probably died while fighting on the ground.  

The death comes after Iran's declaration that it will provide its next-door neighbour with whatever it needs to counter the Sunni armed fighters who are laying siege to the Shia-led government of Nouri al-Maliki.

Samarra is home to the Shia Al-Askari shrine, which the Islamic State has vowed to destroy. It was bombed by al-Qaeda in February 2006, sparking a Sunni-Shia sectarian war that killed tens of thousands.

The reports of the pilot's death came as Iranian officials insist their assistance is not in the form of troops, but rather of weapons and equipment if Iraq asks for them.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed last month that Iran, which is predominantly Shia, would protect Shia holy sites in Iraq, including in Samarra.

Our correspondent said that Iran has been keeping its role in fighting Sunni rebels in Iraq a "secret" because they are "very worried" about escalation of the conflict.

But the protection of the Shia shrines "is absolutely key" to Iran's interest in Iraq. 

Earlier in the week, the Iraqi defence ministry said it had taken delivery of five Sukhoi Su-25 warplanes and released video footage of them being unloaded from a cargo plane.

The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies said the jets came from Iran.

Reports of the Iranian pilot's death also comes as Sunni fighters claimed to have demolished Shia shrines and mosques in northern Iraq.

340

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Swathes of the British electorate continue to show discontent with all things European, including immigration.
Astronomers have captured images of primordial galaxies that helped light up the cosmos after the Big Bang.
Critics assail British photographer's portrayal of indigenous people, but he says he's highlighting their plight.
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
Featured
No one convicted after 58 people gunned down in cold blood in 2009 in the country's worst political mass killing.
While hosting the World Internet Conference, China tries Tiananmen activist for leaking 'state secrets' to US website.
Once staunchly anti-immigrant, some observers say the conservative US state could lead the way in documenting migrants.
NGOs say women without formal documentation are being imprisoned after giving birth in Malaysia.
Public stripping and assault of woman and rival protests thereafter highlight Kenya's gender-relations divide.