AFP: Militants killed four Iranian policemen and kidnapped at least one other in a late-night ambush in a sensitive border province before fleeing towards Pakistan, officials said on Wednesday. by Siavosh Ghazi
TEHRAN, Feb 28, 2007 (AFP) – Militants killed four Iranian policemen and kidnapped at least one other in a late-night ambush in a sensitive border province before fleeing towards Pakistan, officials said on Wednesday.
The clash in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan follows an upsurge of violence in the area which the authorities blame on plots by archfoe the United States and Pakistan’s inability to control its border.
Interior Minister Mostafa Pour Mohammadi said that four police were killed, one abducted and another wounded in the clash on Tuesday. Local police chief Esmael Ahmadi-Mogadam said earlier that four were taken hostage and two killed.
“The rebels who were in two cars fled towards Pakistan,” Ahmadi Mogadam told the IRNA agency.
He complained about the “lack of cooperation from Pakistan to fight against these rebels” adding that “this position is unacceptable”.
However, a border official in Pakistan said he had no knowledge of any such incident and dismissed Iranian complaints that its frontier security was lax.
“We intercept any illegal movement and the two sides have signed several agreements for strict border control and counter-narcotics cooperation,” said Captain Shahid, a spokesman for the Pakistan frontier security force in Quetta.
Sistan-Baluchestan, home to a population of minority Baluch Sunni Muslims, borders Pakistan to the south and Afghanistan to the north.
Thirteen Revolutionary Guards were killed earlier this month when militants set off a car bomb in the provincial capital Zahedan and security forces also
clashed with militants in the city when a percussion bomb exploded.
The unrest in Sistan-Baluchestan has coincided with renewed clashes between Iranian forces and Kurdish rebels in the northwestern province of West Azarbaijan close to the border with Turkey.
Revolutionary Guards head General Yahya Rahim Safavi said more than 30 rebels had been killed in clashes in the northwest over the last few days and that Iranian forces still had other militants encircled.
He also warned that the elite force reserved the right to carry out raids on Iraqi territory if Baghdad does not expel the militants from the border zones.
“Otherwise, the Revolutionary Guards will view it as its right to chase and neutralise them beyond borders to defend its own security and that of the Iranian people,” he said.
The authorities have repeatedly accused the United States and Britain of seeking to stir unrest amongst ethnic minorities in areas close to the Turkish, Iraqi and Pakistani borders.
Zahedan governor Hassan Ali Nouri accused the United States of seeking to stir unrest in provinces where there is “ethnic and religious plurality.”
Safavi added: “The United States and the Zionists seek to incite insecurity in Iran by allocating millions of dollars, equipping and financing satellite televisions and buying arms for these groups.”
However, the Iranian authorities have also berated Pakistan for failing to prevent militants infiltrating.
Iran summoned Pakistan’s ambassador after the unrest earlier this month in Zahedan, a city 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the Pakistan border, and both sides agreed to reinforce border security.
“Terrorist actions are coordinated on the outher side of our eastern frontiers and which are vulnerable,” Pour Mohammadi was quoted as saying by the Mehr agency.
In a separate clash in Sistan-Baluchestan on Tuesday, Iranian security forces clashed with militants who crossed over from Pakistan and pushed them back, Mehr reported.