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Iran says naval officer ‘martyred’ in latest mysterious military death

No details provided on how officer was killed; incident follows series of unexplained deaths of high-level Iranian military figures in recent months

Illustrative: Iranian mourners gather around the coffins of Revolutionary Guards members who were killed in a suicide attack, during their funeral in southeastern city of Isfahan on February 16, 2019. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
Illustrative: Iranian mourners gather around the coffins of Revolutionary Guards members who were killed in a suicide attack, during their funeral in southeastern city of Isfahan on February 16, 2019. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

A senior Iranian naval officer has died as a “martyr” while “performing his mission,” according to Iranian media reports on Saturday.

Admiral Beitaleh Devsalar’s funeral will be held Sunday in front of the Nowshahr Admiralty on the country’s northern coast, the semi-official Fars news agency said.

It was not immediately clear exactly how the officer was killed, but the term “martyr” is usually given to those killed while on important assignments.

Iran has so far refrained from accusing anyone of the incident.

The death of the man comes as tensions remain high over Iran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers, and its uranium enrichment program that is now the closest it has ever been to weapons-grade levels.

The latest incident is one of several mysterious deaths of high-level Iranian military figures in recent months. Last month, three members of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division died in Iran in separate incidents.

Iran suspects Israel is responsible for the deaths of two of its top scientists in recent months by poisoning their food.

The scientists, Ayoob Entezari and Kamran Aghamolaei, died in separate incidents under murky circumstances that Iran suspects were targeted killings, The New York Times reported, citing an Iranian official and two other sources connected to the government.

Both scientists were young and healthy before their deaths, which occurred on different days, hundreds of miles apart.

According to a more recent New York Times report, Israel has deeply infiltrated and drastically shaken Iranian intelligence operations in recent months.

Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a former vice president of Iran who lives in Tehran and still maintains close ties with top officials, told the newspaper that Israeli operations had seriously damaged trust within the country’s security establishment.

The report said that unnamed Iranian officials also admitted that “Israel’s spy network has infiltrated deep into the rank and file of Iran’s security circles.”

Israel has allegedly stepped up its attacks on Iran’s nuclear program in recent months.

Israeli officials told the Times that this was a deliberate tactic to expose failures by the IRGC, generating conflict between the political and defense establishments in Iran.

Iran’s decision to replace the intelligence chief of the IRGC, Hossein Taeb, who had held the position for more than 12 years, was seen as an example of the success of Israeli efforts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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