In one of the deadliest incidents for them in their involvement in the Syrian Civil War, Iran has confirmed 13 of their soldiers were killed and 21 wounded in the village of Khan Touman, near Aleppo, when al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front attacked and overran it.
The Iranian government has labeled the slain soldiers “military advisers.” The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 20 Iranians killed, including the soldiers and seven militia fighters. They also reported at least 15 Afghan Shi’ites and an undisclosed number of Hezbollah fighters were killed in the offensive.
Islamist rebel faction Jaish al-Fatah, a close ally of al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, posted videos and photos on social media displaying the bodies of slain Shi’ites in the villages. Since the incident, the Syrian Observatory has reported growing air strikes against the area around the village.
Losing a lot of soldiers to defections early in the civil war and now five years into a sustained, bloody conflict, Syria has increasingly relied on foreign Shi’ite militias to provide numbers on the ground. This has exacerbated the tensions in an already overtly religious war.
Iranian officials haven’t issued significant statements beyond the confirmation of the deaths so far, but did reiterate recently that their support for the Assad government remains strong, and that they don’t intend to reduce their involvement in the war.
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