Elite Iranian troops killed in explosion at base

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Eighteen members of the elite Revolutionary Guard were killed in an explosion at a base in western Iran.

The state IRNA news agency said yesterday that 14 other Guard troops were wounded in the blast in the city of Khoramabad, 300 miles south-west of Tehran. The injured were taken to hospitals in Khoramabad.

The report said the blast on Tuesday was caused by a fire that had reached the ammunition storage area, but there was no word on what had ignited the blaze. In their first reports of the blast late on Tuesday, most Iranian media said the explosion was an accident.

Although Khoramabad has not seen violence recently, it is geographically close to Kurdish-populated areas that have been the scene in recent months of several attacks by Kurds disgruntled with the central government.

Iran is battling armed separatist movements in the south-east along the border with Pakistan and in the far north-west along the border with Iraq.

On 12 September, a blast at a military parade in Mahabad, near Iraq, killed 12 people and prompted a cross-border retaliatory raid by Iranian forces. They blamed the attack on Kurdish separatists and followers of the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

The Guard is Iran's most powerful military force, created after the 1979 Islamic Revolution as an ideological bulwark to defend clerical rule.