TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran held a funeral on Monday for a senior Revolutionary Guard commander who was killed during a battle against the Islamic State group in Iraq.
State TV said the funeral for Brig. Gen. Hamid Taqavi was held in a Guard compound in Tehran. He will be buried in his hometown Ahvaz in southwestern Iran on Tuesday.
The Guard said Sunday that Taqavi was "martyred while performing his advisory mission" in Samarra, a town north of Baghdad that is home to a major Shiite shrine. He is the highest ranking Iranian officer known to have been killed abroad since the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, in which he fought.
Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told mourners at the funeral that Taqavi had died defending Iran from extremists, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
"Some ask, what is the link between Taqavi and Samarra? The answer is very clear. If Taqavi and his colleagues do not give blood in Samarra, we should give blood" in Iran, he said.
Predominantly Shiite Iran says it has sent military advisers to assist Syria and Iraq in battling extremist groups, but has denied sending combat forces.
Iran says it has played a key role in pushing back the Islamic State group following the extremists' summer blitz across northern and western Iraq. But Tehran insists its officers are only providing military advice and training.
Also on Monday, Iran's Defense Minister Gen. Hossein Dehghan told his visiting Iraqi counterpart, Khaled al-Obeidi, that Iran supports the Iraqi government efforts in fighting IS and expressed hope for the liberation of those parts of Iraq currently under IS control.
"We are hopeful that the trend of liberation of occupied parts of Iraq from the stain of the terrorists will continue with the same current strength and seriousness," the official IRNA news agency reported.
Al-Obeidi welcomed Iran's support and said "We see Iran's boosting support to Iraqi armed forces as a strategic necessity."
He said Iraq needs the "help, participation and support" of Iran in "fighting terrorism and corruption as well as reconstruction."