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Saturday, April 10, 1999 Published at 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK

World: Middle East

Iranian army general killed

General Shirazi pictured on Iranian TV

A top Iranian army general, Brigadier-General Ali Sayad Shirazi, is reported to have been killed in an attack in Tehran.

The BBC's Sadeq Saba: "Assassination attempts and armed clashes on the increase"
The official Iranian news agency reported that General Shirazi was assassinated outside his home while on his way to work by what it described as "unknown mercenary terrorists".

A spokesman for the Iranian opposition group based in Iraq, the People's Mujahedeen, said it carried out the attack.

Jonathan Hill: "Violence is now a factor in the power struggle between moderates and hardliners"
"Several Mujahedeen operational units punished General Ali Sayad Shirazi," a People's Mujahedeen spokesman told French news agency AFP.

The group is the Islamic regime's fiercest enemy and has killed many senior Iranian officials during the past 20 years.

Last August, it claimed responsibility for killing the head of Iran's Prisons organisation and a former chief prosecutor, Asadullah Lajevardi.

Latest attack

The general, who was in his 50s, was deputy chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces.

He had personally directed several of Iran's major offensives in the war with Iraq in the 1980s and his exploits had earned him the nickname "Iron Man".

In 1989, he was awarded the highest military distinction in the Iranian armed forces, the Fath (Conquest) medal.

Following the war, he became an advisor to central command, which is under the direct authority of Iran's supreme leader and spiritual guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

There have been several attacks on senior officials in Iran in the past few months.

A senior judge, Ali Razini, and the head of Iran's largest charity organisation, Mohsen Rafiq-Doust, are among those injured during separate assassination attempts.

Supporters of the moderate President Mohammad Khatami fear that the increasing violence could jeopardise his reform policies and help his conservative rivals.

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