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Friday, May 24, 2024

Foreign nationals gunned down near Pakistani border in Iran

The victims, according to the Baluch rights group Haalvash, were Pakistani laborers residing and working at an auto repair shop.

Unidentified gunmen have reportedly killed nine foreign nationals in southeastern Iran near the Pakistani border, as reported by the semi-official Mehr news agency on Saturday. The incident occurred amidst ongoing efforts by both countries to repair relations following recent tit-for-tat attacks. No individuals or groups have claimed responsibility for the shootings in the Sistan-Baluchestan province, a region marked by sporadic clashes between security forces, separatist militants, and opium smugglers from Afghanistan, the world’s leading producer of the drug.

The victims, according to the Baluch rights group Haalvash, were Pakistani laborers residing and working at an auto repair shop, with three others sustaining injuries. The attack unfolded as Iranian state media announced the return of the Pakistani and Iranian ambassadors to their posts after being recalled due to missile strikes between the two countries targeting purported militant sites.

Expanding regional conflict 

This deadly assault follows recent military actions in the Baluchistan border region, contributing to heightened regional tensions exacerbated by the Israel-Hamas conflict. Sistan-Baluchistan, primarily Sunni in a Shiite-dominated Iran, has experienced ongoing unrest involving cross-border drug smuggling, Baluchi ethnic minority rebels, and jihadist activities.

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On January 18, Pakistan launched air strikes on alleged “militant targets” in Iran, responding to Iranian strikes on its territory two days earlier. Tehran claimed to have targeted Jaish al-Adl, a jihadist group designated as a “terrorist” organization by Iran. The Iranian strikes, criticized for civilian casualties, prompted a sharp response from Islamabad, resulting in the recall of ambassadors. Despite the initial escalation, both nations announced a decision to de-escalate on the following Monday, with diplomatic missions resuming and ambassadors returning to their respective posts.