TEHRAN — A mysterious explosion at an Iranian military base last week was caused when a test of an experimental intercontinental ballistic missile failed, the brother of a senior Revolutionary Guard Corps commander who was killed in the incident said Saturday.
The commander, Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moqadam, was killed Nov. 12, along with 20 other members of the elite corps, at a site 25 miles southwest of Tehran that officials have described as one of the Islamic Republic’s main missile bases. At his funeral, Moqadam was called the “founder” of Iran’s missile program.
Moqadam’s brother, Mohammad Tehrani Moqadam, himself a Guard officer, told the official government newspaper Iran on Saturday that the commander had also founded the missile unit of the Lebanese Hezbollah group, was involved in Iran’s space program and had died while conducting a final test on a missile.
“The project was in the final testing phase,” Moqadam said, according to the Associated Press. “It was related to an intercontinental ballistic missile . . . It was a completely high-tech, confidential process.”
The comments about the missile test were left out of the report in Iran on Saturday’s print version, however. They appeared on the paper’s Web site early Saturday but were deleted later in the day.
The semi-official Fars news agency quoted Mohammad Tehrani Moqadam as denying any knowledge of details of Iran’s missile program and saying that the government newspaper had “made up” the deleted quotes.
The amended interview quoted him as saying merely that the project was “secret” and “a promise to the nation in protecting the country.”
Last week, Iran’s armed forces chief, Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, said that research had been set back “a few days” by the explosion and vowed that when the final tests of the research were completed and the results disclosed, “it will be a strong punch in the mouth of Israel,” according to accounts in state media.
Iranian officials, who in the past have accused the United States and Israel of masterminding assassinations of nuclear scientists, have ruled out sabotage as the cause of the explosion. Guard commanders said it was an accident that occurred while military personnel were transporting munitions. The findings of a parliamentary investigation are expected in the coming week.
Iran on Saturday also announced the start of war games in the east of the country, along the border with Afghanistan. The official Islamic Republic News Agency said the exercise will focus on preparedness for protecting Iran’s airspace and nuclear facilities in case of attack.