Iranian state media is reporting that at least 17 people, including a commander pivotal to Iran's missile development, were killed in an explosion at an arms depot some 30 miles northwest of Tehran. The blast took place in a facility belonging to Iran's Revolutionary Guards near the city of Keraj.
Windows in nearby buildings were shattered and the blast was heard in central Tehran, 40 km away.General Hasan Moghaddam was among the 17 Revolutionary Guardsmen killed in this weekend's blast. Moghaddam was described as being one of the architechts of Iran's long-range missile program and was buried with full state honors at a funeral attended by Ayatollah Ali Khameni this week.
Two hours after the explosion a fire still raged and there were traffic jams on nearby roads, a local reporter said.
The death toll was revised down from an earlier figure released by the Revolutionary Guards of 27.
Revolutionary Guards spokesman Ramezan Sharif did not say what had caused the "accident" in the village of Bidganeh, near the city of Karaj.
"Some of the casualties are reported to be in a critical condition," he said.
An emergency worker said that 12 people had been taken to hospital.
Karaj resident Kaveer told the BBC's Newshour programme that the sound was "deafening".
"We were kind of shocked. I just ran out of the house and looked around," he said.
Although state-controlled media outlets report that the blast was an accident, reports suggest the Ayatollah Khameni's inner circle believe it was an act of sabotage carried out by Israel's Mossad intelligence agency.
The blast came just days before another computer virus targeting Iranian military computer networks was discovered. The virus is called Duqu by computer security experts and shares similar charachterisitics with the earlier Stuxtnet worm that disabled the centrifuges Iran was using to enrich uranium.
"We are in the initial phase of fighting the Duqu virus," said Gholamreza Jalali, the head of Iran's civil defence program. "The final report which says which organisations the virus has spread to and what its impacts are has not been completed yet. All the organisations and centres that could be susceptible to being contaminated are being controlled."Happening almost concurrently with the Keraj explosion, the son of former Revolutionary Guard commander was found dead in his Dubai hotel room.
The Stuxnet virus altered the speed at which the enrichment centrifuges spun until they were out of control. It was so sophisticated that experts said it must have been the work of an advanced, probably national, sabotage program. Duqu operates differently, though using some of the same code to infiltrate computers, sending back information to its handlers rather than breaking down systems. The virus was spread through an infected Microsoft Word document.
Symantec, the computer security firm, which has led investigations into Stuxnet and Duqu, said the new virus seemed to be intended to gain remote access to computer systems.
Numerous Iranian media on Sunday reported the death of Ahmad Rezaie inside Hotel Gloria, a four-star hotel in the coastal United Arab Emirates city.Iran's Revolutionary Guards operates independently from other branches of the Iranian military, answering to the ruling clerics, commanding the 90,000 strong Basiij militia and controlling a financial portfolio thought to be worth US$8 billion of both military, civilian and black market assets.
Khalil Ebrahim Al Mansouri, head of the Dubai police's criminal investigations department, said there is no criminal suspicion surrounding the man's death. Al Mansouri, quoting the dead man's brother, added that Ahmad suffered from epilepsy.
Yet Tabnak, a website owned by the dead man's father, Mohsen Rezaie, claimed that Ahmad "was killed under suspicious circumstances."
The same site noted that the death was "concurrent with the martyrdom of Mohsen Rezaie's comrades in arms" on Saturday, referring to an explosion at a military base near Tehran.
The Tabnak report did not elaborate on what connection, if any, existed between Ahmad Rezaie's death and the deadly explosion.
Shahram Gilabadi -- a spokesman for Iran's Expediency Council, of which Mohsen Rezaie is secretary -- told Tabnak, "The death is currently being investigated."
The semi-official Mehrs News Agency reported that Ahmad Rezaie died from an electric shock.
Mohsen Rezaie served for years as head of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard.