Iran loses its top missile expert in explosions sparked by failed bid to fit nuclear warhead on Shahab-3
DEBKAfile Special Report November 12, 2011, 9:53 PM (GMT+02:00)
Brig. Hassan Moghadam, head of Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) missile development and sections of its nuclear program, was killed in one of the two consecutive explosions that hit two IRGC bases 46 kilometers west of Tehran Saturday, Nov. 12. The official fatality figure is 32. Fourteen hours after explosions blasts could still be heard and fires raged. debkafile's exclusive sources report the bases are located in Malard, a town in the Shahryar district. The Moadarres facility was the first to be hit, while the second and bigger blast occurred at Amir-al-Mo'menin.
Their force was such that the Iranian Red Crescent rushed 45 ambulances to the two facilities plus 23 buses converted to first-aid vehicles and a helicopter to evacuate the critically injured.
However, only six rescue workers were given access to the Moadarres base and none were permitted to enter to enter Amir-al-Mo'menin because of the facility's sensitivity.
Fourteen hours after the explosions, the blasts continued and fires raged. Surrounding streets were closed and reporters kept away from the scene.
Our sources report increasing evidence that the first explosion was caused by a failed effort to mount a nuclear warhead on a Shahab-3 intermediate-range missile.
It was powerful enough to shatter windows and damage shops in Tehran. People gathering on street corners wondered if Israel had attacked Iran's nuclear sites or destroyed Revolutionary Guards missile bases. They recalled Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's threat Thursday, Nov. 10 to take the war to the streets of Tel Aviv if Tehran was attacked.
IRGC spokesman, Brig. Ramedan Sharif, sharply denied what he said was speculation that the military base was linked to Iran's nuclear program. "This blast is not related to any nuclear tests," he said in response to widespread rumors. He insisted the explosion had occurred at an ammo store which was part of the Guards' "self-sufficiency" system, a term they apply to their munitions plants and the factories manufacturing missile components.
The Iranian authorities, after raising the fatality figure to 32, withheld information on the injured, most of which where transferred to IRGC rather than civilian hospitals. Some may have been foreign engineers or scientists whose presence Tehran is anxious to conceal.
The Emergency Council which deals with extraordinary happenings liable to affect the regime's stability met in emergency session Saturday night.
Earlier Saturday, debkafile reported on the two huge explosions at two separate military bases west of Tehran killing dozens of Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), wounding many more and trapping an unknown number under rubble.
In Tehran, 40 kilometers away, windows were shattered and damage caused vehicles and shops. The blasts were heard in Tehran's center.
debkafile's military and Iranian sources report that the explosions may have been part of a series carried out by Iranian dissident groups last month.
The suspicion of sabotage was strengthened by the occurrence Friday of a big fire at a Tehran warehouse used according to our sources by the IRGC for crowd dispersal gear.
The ammo base blown up Saturday in the town of Malard in Shahryar district contained large quantities of rubber bullets, tear gas and other ordnance. A short time later, the second explosion hit a light arms depot at a military camp of Bidganeh several kilometers away. That both were accidents is hardly credible.
The two blasts were confirmed by the Iranian lawmaker Hossein Garussi without further details.
Tehran recently broke up an armed dissident group called Oghab. Three members were executed and the others were allowed to flee the country. An organization of that name operates in the United States, but its leader denied involvement in any sabotage operations inside Iran.