Senior Iranian commander dies from coronavirus

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - The news came as Foreign Minister Javad Zarif confirmed that confirmed cases of COVID-19 had exceeded 11,000, with at least 514 deaths.

The virus has spread significantly among Iran's officials and politicians, claiming a number of lives of senior government figures.

At least five other IRGC members have died from coronavirus, the forces' spokesman Ramezan Sharif said on Thursday.

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Shabani previously hit headlines in 2018 after claiming that Iran instructed Yemen's Houthi militia to attack two Saudi oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.

"We told the Yemenis to attack the two Saudi tankers, and they attacked," Shabani was quoted as saying in state media.

On Thursday, Iran's former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati was confirmed to have contracted the virus.

A close adviser of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Velayati was also the director of Tehran's Masih Daneshvari hospital, where most of the city's coronavirus cases are being treated.

The outbreak in Iran is one of the deadliest outside China, where the disease originated.

Iran's sluggish response to the outbreak has been widely criticised, with a UN rights expert calling it “too little too late”.

Unnamed sources inside Iran's health system accused the government of covering up the spread when it first hit in February.

Satellite images of alleged mass graves in the city of Qom have heightened worries that the outbreak is still far more severe than authorities are admitting.

The government is now enacting emergency measures to deal with the spiralling outbreak, such as cancelling congregational prayers, restricting travel and releasing thousands of prisoners.

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