Iran said Friday that one of its senior military officers, Quds Force commander Gen. Hossein Hamedani, was killed in Syria. He was officially in the country as an advisor to Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces, but was also reportedly commanding Iranian troops fighting alongside the Syrian regime in the war against rebel groups.
Officials said earlier this week that it was senior Iranian military officials who worked with Moscow to plot a course in Syria to keep Assad in power, convincing the Russians to dramatically increase their involvement in the grinding four-plus-year conflict which has already claimed more than a quarter of a million lives.
Iranian state television reported Hamedani was killed in the suburbs of Aleppo, in northern Syria, while "carrying out an advisory mission," but didn't provide any further details.
Hamedani is one of the most senior Guard commanders to be killed in Syria. He was a veteran commander who had an important role in Iran's 1980-88 war with Iraq.
Iran is one of Assad's main allies. Tehran has provided his government with military and political backing for years and has kept up its support since Syria's civil war began in 2011.
Guard commanders repeatedly have said Iran only has high-level advisers in Syria, denying it has fighters there.
France's defense minister said, meanwhile, that French fighter jets had launched airstrikes in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, targeting foreign fighters plotting attacks in Europe.
Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Europe-1 radio Friday that two Rafale jets bombed a training camp "and the objective was achieved." It was the second French strike on Syria, and Le Drian said "it will not be the last."
He also criticized Russia's stepped-up and wide-ranging military action in Syria, saying "80 to 90 percent" of its actions did not target ISIS. Russia has said repeatedly that its air campaign is aimed against ISIS, but senior U.S. officials have expressed frustration that the strikes are also targeting moderate rebel groups, including some backed by the Obama administration.
France joined the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS in Iraq last year and expanded its campaign to Syria last month.