Iran Says Five Guards, Including Two Colonels, Killed After Clashes in Southeast

Clashes in Iran’s southeast claimed the lives of five members of the Revolutionary Guards, state media reported Sunday, raising the death toll from violent unrest there two days earlier.

State media had Friday reported the fighting in Zahedan, capital of Sistan-Baluchestan province, later confirming the deaths of four members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, including two colonels.

“With the death on Saturday night of one of the members of the paramilitary forces, the number of martyrs among the Guards in the terrorist incident in Zahedan on Friday has increased to five,” state news agency IRNA reported.

An additional 32 members of the Guards, Iran’s ideological army, were wounded during the clashes, the official news agency said, citing a Guards statement.

It was not clear whether the violence was linked to the nationwide unrest that erupted after the September death of Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, 22, after her arrest by the morality police for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code.

But a Sunni Muslim preacher, Molavi Abdol Hamid, on Wednesday said on his website that the community was “inflamed” after a recent case involving the alleged rape of a teenage girl by a police officer in the same province.

The police chief in Sistan-Baluchestan had said on state television that three police stations were attacked in the province, without giving the number of casualties.

The Guards had announced that Colonel Hamid Reza Hashemi, an IRGC intelligence officer, and Colonel Ali Mousavi, a provincial intelligence officer, were among those killed.

Tasnim news agency on Saturday reported that the Sunni rebel group Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) had claimed responsibility for the attack in Zahedan.

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In recent years, the jihadist group has been the most active rebel group in Sistan-Baluchestan, carrying out several high-profile bombings and abductions.

Tasnim reported Sunday that two “important” members of Jaish al-Adl — Abdolmajid Rigi and Yasser Shahbakhsh — as well as the “sniper responsible for killing” the provincial intelligence chief, had been killed, without providing further detail.

Poverty-stricken Sistan-Baluchestan, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan, is a flashpoint for clashes with drug smuggling gangs as well as rebels from the Baluchi minority and Sunni Muslim extremist groups.