Iranian Official Says 2,100 Fighters Killed In Syria, Iraq

More than 2,000 fighters sent by Iran have been killed in conflicts in Syria and Iraq, according to the head of the Iranian veterans' affairs office.

"Currently we have 2,100 martyred shrine defenders," Mohammad Ali Shahidi was quoted as saying on March 6 by the semiofficial Mehr news agency.

Shahidi heads the Foundation of Martyrs and Veteran Affairs, which supports the relatives of those killed fighting for Iran.

He did not provide details on the nationalities of those killed.

The figure was more than double the number Shahidi gave in November, which referred only to Syria.

Iranian officials use the terms "Shrine defenders" to refer to fighters deployed in Syria to bolster President Bashar al-Assad. A number of "shrine defenders" have been reportedly also deployed in Iraq.

Iran claims the fighters are "volunteers" who defend religious sites and shrines revered by Shi'a.

They include Afghans who, according to some reports, are offered financial reward and residency permits to fight in Syria.

Tehran is a major backer of the Syrian government, whom it has helped remain in power through financial and military assistance.

Based on reporting by Mehr and AFP