Iran defense ministry says ‘employee’ killed amid series of mysterious deaths

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An “employee” of Iran’s defense ministry was killed on Sunday while “on duty,” the ministry said on Monday, the latest in a series of mysterious deaths of Iranian military personnel in recent weeks.

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Mohammad Abdous was “martyred” Sunday evening while “on duty” in the north-central province of Semnan, the defense ministry said in a statement carried by state media.

The statement described Abdous as an “employee” of the defense ministry and gave no further details on his role or how he was killed.

The defense ministry’s statement contradicted earlier reports by Iranian state media which said Abdous was a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ aerospace unit.

Fars, an IRGC-affiliated news agency, said early Monday that Abdous and Ali Kamani were martyred “on duty” in two separate incidents on Sunday, describing both of them as members of the IRGC’s aerospace unit.

The deaths of Abdous and Kamani are the latest in a series of mysterious deaths of Iranians associated with the country’s military in recent weeks.

On May 22, IRGC colonel Sayyad Khodaei was assassinated in a gun attack in the capital Tehran. Iran blamed Israel for his killing and vowed to take revenge. It was the most-high profile assassination inside Iran since the 2020 killing of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which Tehran also blamed on Israel.

Iran does not recognize Israel and has in the past accused it of attacking nuclear facilities and carrying out assassinations inside Iran.

On May 26, Iran’s defense ministry said that an “accident” at the Parchin military complex near Tehran killed Ehsan Ghadbeigi, an “engineer.” The New York Times later reported that Ghadbeigi had been killed in a suspected Israeli drone strike.

On May 31, aerospace engineer Ayoob Entezari died under suspicious circumstances. Israeli media reported that he was poisoned at a dinner party. He worked Iran’s missile and drone programs, according to Israeli media reports.

On June 3, state news agency IRNA reported that another IRGC colonel, Ali Esmailzadeh, died in an “incident” at his home.

IRNA’s report came hours after Iran International, a London-based, Persian-language satellite news channel reported, citing unnamed sources, that the IRGC killed Esmailzadeh after he was suspected of espionage.

While confirming Esmailzadeh’s death, IRNA denied Iran International’s report that the IRGC was behind his killing, describing the report as “a psychological war and false news.”

Iran International reported that Esmailzadeh died “after falling from the roof of his house” in the city of Karaj, west of the capital Tehran. IRGC officials told Esmailzadeh’s family that he committed suicide, according to the report.

Esmailzadeh was a “close associate” of Khodaei, the report said.

The IRGC’s intelligence wing had accused Esmailzadeh of involvement in Khodaei’s assassination by leaking information to foreign intelligence services, the report said, adding that the IRGC ultimately decided to kill Esmailzadeh by staging his suicide.

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