Militants seize 14 Iranian security forces near Pakistan

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Militants in Iran abducted 14 members of a border security force near the Pakistan border on Tuesday in the latest blow to the powerful Revolutionary Guard.

Media reports quoted an unnamed but informed source as saying two of those abducted are members of the Guard’s intelligence department. The rest include seven members of the Basij force, a volunteer wing of the Guard, as well as regular Iranian border guards.

The abduction took place under the cover of darkness near the Loukdan crossing point in southeastern Sistan and Baluchistan province. The area, which lies on a major opium trafficking route, has seen occasional clashes between Iranian forces and Baluch separatists, as well as drug traffickers.

Iranian media later said an al-Qaida-affiliated group known as Jaish al-Adl claimed responsibility for the attack.

In a previous abduction, the militant group killed an Iranian officer and released four soldiers after holding them for nearly two months. The captives were reportedly taken to Pakistan.

The Guard confirmed the latest abductions in a statement on its website, saying the attack was the work of “treason committed by infiltrators.”

The statement blamed a “terrorist group guided and supported by foreign intelligence services,” and said Iranian security forces would “seriously pursue the bandits, terrorists and infiltrators. It said the perpetrators were “hired by some evil, reactionary and terrorist-training regional countries,” a reference to Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia and the kingdom’s Gulf Arab allies.

Gen. Mohammad Pakpour, the commander of the Guard’s ground forces, called for a joint Iranian-Pakistani operation against those behind the abductions. He said Pakistan needs “to assume more responsibility in this regard.”

Iranian state TV said the attack happened close to a Pakistani border guard station.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry expressed concern over the abductions, and said both militaries were trying to ascertain the captives’ whereabouts. “No effort will be spared to assist our Iranian brothers in finding the Iranian guards,” it said.

The paramilitary Guard answers directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In September, militants disguised as soldiers opened fire on a military parade in Iran’s oil-rich southwestern city of Ahvaz, killing 24 people and wounding over 60. Khamenei blamed Riyadh and Abu Dhabi for the attack, allegations denied by both countries.

Arab separatists in the region claimed responsibility for the attack, as did the Islamic State group.

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