World Bulletin / News Desk
According to an Iranian news site, Tabnak, a Farsi languaged news website, close to 200 fighters from the Fatemiyoun Brigade have been killed so far fighting in Syria, according to a report in the Middle East Eye.
The Fatemiyoun Brigade is a force composed of Afghan refugees living in Iran, who are reportedly paid $500 a month and promised residency papers in return for fighting alongside Syrian government forces.
Iranian officials have declined to comment on casualty figures with regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia give their backing to opposing sides.
But the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guard, a wing of the military established after the 1979 revolution to prevent foreign interference in Iran, admitted on Monday that casualties were on the rise.
“Our number of martyrs is not high,” Brigadier General Hossein Salami told Iranian state television on Monday, “but compared to before it is more noticeable.”
“This is because the Syrian army is occupied with reorganising its military – that is why Shia military forces from Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iraq have entered alongside our forces in Syria.
“Because of this we are seeing an increase in the number of casualties in military operations there.”
Salami said Iran had sent more military advisers and trainers to Syria in response to a call for help from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Forces allied to Assad, which include fighters from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, also rreceived a boost when Russia began airstrikes to back up their movements on the ground.
There have also been reports that Russia suffered its first military casualty on the ground in Syria, after the reported death of 19-year-old Vadim Kostenko, who reportedly travelled to the country “as a contract soldier”.