At least ten top members of the Iran's Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (Pasdaran) group have died under suspicious circumstances in recent months, the Defense Online website reported Thursday.
Those killed include generals and other top-ranked officials, and many of them have died in “apparently violent circumstances,” the report said.
The Guardians act as a combination border patrol, modesty police, and internal security apparatus in Iran. Their mission is to ensure that the Islamic Revolution does not fall by the wayside, and that Iranians continue to submit to the wills of the mullahs running the country.
The Guardians are considered one of the most powerful organizations in Iran today, controls its own paramilitary group, employs 90,000 people, and is said to have tens of billions of holdings in businesses.
It is tension over those holdings that have gotten the officers killed, the report says.
With sanctions making it harder and more expensive to import anything and even acquire items locally, the black market has flourished, and the speculation is that other groups that feel the Guardians are trying to “squeeze them out” of some areas of business.
Sunni-Shiite tension is also thought to be playing a factor, as at least two of the dead served in areas with large Sunni populations.
Iran has publicized only two of the deaths, with information on the other eight coming from democracy and rights groups operating outside of Iran.
Among the dead was General Ahmed Mansouri, a top Guardians officer who is a close relative of Supreme Leader Ayatalloh Ali Khameini. Sources in Iran say that he died of a heart attack. Two other officers died in a traffic accident.
Two were found dead by apparently violent means, and no information was available from the Iranian rebel groups on the other five.