Blast at Iranian weapons depot kills 15

By Kay Armin Serjoie and Thomas Erdbrink, Saturday, November 12, 10:40 AM

TEHRAN — An explosion at a Revolutionary Guard Corps weapons depot near the Iranian capital killed 15 soldiers Saturday, Iranian state TV reported.

Firemen from several cities rushed to the scene to control a raging fire ignited by the explosion, which was felt by many in Tehran, 30 miles to the east. Witnesses reported a thick black column of smoke rising from the site.

Ramezan Sharif, a spokesman for the Guards, said the incident was an accident that occurred when ammunition was being transported at the Shahid Modarres base in the industrial city of Malard, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

The explosion comes amid a sharp increase in explosions at industrial sites, key gas pipelines and Revolutionary Guard bases in Iran in recent years, which some here attribute to sabotage by the United States.

In October 2010, 18 servicemen were killed in an explosion at an ammunition depot on a Guard Corps base near the western city of Khorramabad.

In May, a blast at an oil refinery during a visit by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad killed four people.

Tension has escalated between Iran and the United States and Israel in recent days, following threats of attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities and possible retaliation for such a move.

Serjoie is a special correspondent. Erdbrink reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.