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Thousands of Iranians attend funeral for 600 war dead

TEHRAN, June 10 (AFP) - Thousands of mothers and other mourners attended a funeral here Thursday for 600 Iranian soldiers killed during the 1980-1988 war with Iraq.

The 4,000 mourners gathered at the Islamic Republic founder's tomb to pay their last respects to the "martyrs" whose remains were discovered in the Iranian-Iraqi border area 11 years after the war ended, witnesses said.

In a symbolic ritual, men clad in black carried 10 of the caskets around Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's mausoleum, south of Tehran, before entering the shrine for prayers.

Clerics read verses from Islam's holy book, the Koran, and spoke about the "brave" soldiers and the eight years of "sacred defence."

When the two-hour ceremony ended, the 600 coffins, wrapped in the Iranian flag and covered with flowers, were loaded into six trucks to be taken to the northeastern city of Mashhad for burial.

Most of the bodies were discovered recently by search teams working in the Iranian-Iraqi border region.

Iran and Iraq regularly exchange the bodies of former combatants, and the remains of more than 40,000 Iranian troops have been found since the end of the war that claimed some 300,000 Iranian lives and injured more than 500,000.

Close to 50 Iranians have been killed and another 81 injured since 1990 in mine explosions while searching for remains in border areas.


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