DUBAI, Jan 27 (Reuters) – Unidentified gunmen killed nine Pakistani workers in a restive southeastern border area of Iran on Saturday, Pakistan’s ambassador and Iranian state media said, amid efforts by the two countries to mend ties after tit-for-tat attacks.
“Deeply shocked by horrifying killing of 9 Pakistanis in Saravan. Embassy will extend full support to bereaved families,” the Pakistani ambassador to Tehran, Muhammad Mudassir Tipu, said on the X platform. “We called upon Iran to extend full cooperation in the matter.”
Iranian state media said police were looking for the three gunmen who escaped after the shooting.
The Baluch rights group Haalvash said on its website that the victims were Pakistani labourers who lived at an auto repair shop where they worked. Three others were wounded, it said.
State media said no individuals or groups had claimed responsibility for the shootings in Saravan in Sistan-Baluchestan province.
“It is a horrifying and despicable incident and we condemn it unequivocally,” Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said. “We are in touch with Iranian authorities and have underscored the need to immediately investigate the incident and hold to account those involved.”
ANALYSIS: Islamic Republic’s Strikes Against Pakistan Are Strategic Blunder
The shooting occurred ahead of a planned visit on Monday to Pakistan by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian.
State media said the Pakistani and Iranian ambassadors were returning to their postings after being recalled when the neighbouring countries exchanged missile strikes last week aimed at what each said were militant targets.
“The Iran-Pakistan border creates an opportunity for economic exchanges… and must be protected against any insecurity,” Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told Mudassir Tipu as he received the ambassador’s credentials on Saturday, state media reported.
The impoverished Sistan-Baluchestan region has long been the scene of sporadic clashes between security forces and separatist militants and smugglers carrying opium from Afghanistan, the world’s top producer of the drug.
Iran has some of the lowest fuel prices in the world and this has also led to increasing fuel-smuggling to Pakistan and Afghanistan despite a crackdown by Iranian border guards.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; additional reporting by Saleem Ahmed in Quetta; editing by William Maclean, Jason Neely and Nick Macfie)
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