Middle EastWar

More than 2,000 Afghans sent by Iran killed in Syria

More than 2,000 Afghans deployed by Iran have been killed fighting in Syria on the government side, an official in the volunteer force told Iranian media.

Liwa Fatemiyoun, composed of Afghan “volunteer” recruits, has been fighting in Syria for five years, said Zohair Mojahed, a cultural official in the brigade.

“This brigade has given more than 2,000 martyrs and 8,000 wounded for Islam,” he said in an interview with the reformist Shargh newspaper published Saturday.

Afghan Liwa Fatemiyoun fighters near Palmyra, Syria
Ethnic-Afghan Liwa Fatemiyoun fighters during the Deir Ezzor offensive in Syria, November 2017. Image: Tasnim/Wikimedia/CC BY 4.0

Liwa Fatemiyoun is reportedly the biggest military unit deployed by Iran in Iraq and Syria. It draws recruits from Afghan refugees in Iran and Syria, and from the Hazara Shiite minority in Afghanistan. Iran offers citizenship to the families of foreign fighters “martyred” in Syria and Iraq, and reportedly offers a year’s residency for a three-month deployment to Syria

Groups which comprise part of Liwa Fatemiyoun fought the Taliban in Afghanistan since the Soviet war, as well as against Saddam Hussein’s forces in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

Some 3,000 Afghans died in the Iran-Iraq war, Mojahed said.

Afghan Liwa Fatemiyoun fighters near Palmyra, Syria
Ethnic-Afghan Liwa Fatemiyoun fighters during the Palmyra offensive in Syria, December 10, 2016. Image: Tasnim/Wikimedia/CC BY 4.0

Iran rarely provides figures on the numbers fighting and killed in its operations in Syria and Iraq.

The last toll was provided by the veterans organisation in March, which said 2,100 volunteers had died without specifying how many were foreign recruits.

Iran denies sending professional troops to fight in the region, saying it has only provided military advisors and organised brigades made up of volunteers from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Iranian media has reported on the funerals of volunteer “martyrs” and aired television features about their presence in Syria.

With reporting from AFP

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