The Iranian military has confirmed that 14 servicemen were abducted by “terrorists” along the southeastern border with Pakistan, urging the neighboring country to take serious the threat of cross-border terrorism.
“Last evening (Monday, October 15), some indigenous Basij [paramilitary] forces and border guards patrolling in the Mirjaveh border town [in Lulakdan border area] have been abducted by treacherous agents or anti-revolutionary groups,” read a statement issued by Iran’s Quds Force, an elite unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), issued on Tuesday, according to Mehr news agency.
“The agents of the terrorist groups, who are guided and supported by foreign intelligence services, have caused the incident in front of a Pakistani border post,” the statement read.
Later on Tuesday the commander of the IRGC's Ground Force, Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour, said that members of the Jaish al-Adl terrorist group infiltrated Iran from the Pakistani side of the border and took hostage a number of local Basij forces, border guards and two IRGC members. Pakpour said a large number of Iranian border posts have been attacked from inside Pakistan in the past six months.
“The Islamic Republic is ready to carry out any joint operation with Pakistan’s army to arrest the outlaws and secure the release of the hostages and we will pursue this case until those abducted individuals safely return to their families,” he said, according to Tasnim news agency.
According to Jamaran, the 14 kidnapped servicemen included two members of the elite Revolutionary Guards intelligence unit, seven Basij militiamen and five regular border guards. However, some sources put the number of kidnapped forces at 11.
Meanwhile, Fars news agency suggested that the forces had been poisoned by food before being captured and taken to Pakistan. Ebrahim Azizi, the spokesman for Jaish al-Adl, a Sunni militant group, claimed responsibility for the incident.
“This morning Jaish al-Adl forces attacked a border post in Mirjaveh, and captured all their weapons,” Azizi said in an audio message sent to Reuters.
Azizi said that the group had seized more than 10 people, and that the attack was a retaliation for what he called state-sponsored oppression against Sunni Muslims in Sistan and Baluchestan province, an area in Shiite-dominated Iran that is predominantly populated by Sunnis.
The Baluchi and Sunni militant group Jaish al-Adl (“Army of Justice”) has carried out several attacks on Iranian military targets in recent years.
In July 2017, three rebel suspects were killed during a skirmish with the IRGC in Saravan, a town that lies along the Pakistan border. Earlier this year, on April 26, nine Iranian border guards were killed in a terror attack by members of Jaish al-Adl. The group has claimed responsibility for other attacks as well, including one that killed eight border guards in April 2015, and another that claimed 14 border guards in October 2013.
Besides Jaish al-Adl, other Sunni rebel groups operating in the border regions of Iran and Pakistan include the Baluch nationalist group Jundallah, and Harakat Ansar Iran, one of two groups that had split from Jundallah. In 2013, the group merged with another faction to form yet another Sunni Baluch militant group called Ansar Al-Furqan.
Iran has intensified operations against rebels “creating insecurity and carrying out acts of sabotage in Iran's provinces of West Azerbaijan, Kurdistan and Kermanshah” and in other border areas, according to Press TV.
On September 8, the IRGC fired seven short-range surface-to-surface missiles targeting the headquarters and an alleged meeting of leaders of criminal groups and what has been described as a center for training affiliated terrorists in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region. In a September 28 statement published by Iranian state media, the IRGC said it killed four militants and wounded two more, including the second-in-command of Jaish al-Adl along the Saravan border crossing, close to Pakistan, in Sistan and Baluchestan.
In early August, the IRGC announced that it had disbanded a team of terrorists along the country’s border with Iraq, killing 11 of its members. Later in August the IRGC Quds Force killed four members of a terrorist group during clashes occurred near Saravan.