LONDON (Reuters) – At least 10 Iranian security personnel including Revolutionary Guards were kidnapped on the border with Pakistan on Tuesday, state media reported, and a separatist group that claimed responsibility described the act as revenge for oppression of Sunni Muslims.
The Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s top security force, said in a statement carried on state television that some of its members were abducted by a militant group at a border post in the city of Mirjaveh in Sistan-Baluchestan province.
The Guards did not say how many were kidnapped, but state news agency IRNA quoted an unnamed official saying 14 people were kidnapped around 4 a.m. or 5 a.m.
The Guards said it believed the Iranian forces were deceived by several “insiders”, but did not elaborate. Fars news agency said there were reports the Iranian forces had been poisoned by food before being captured and taken to Pakistan.
Ebrahim Azizi, spokesman of Jaish al-Adl, a Sunni militant group, said the group had seized more than 10 people.
“This morning Jaish al-Ad forces attacked a border post in Mirjaveh, and captured all their weapons,” Azizi said in an audio message sent to Reuters.
The group also claimed responsibility on its Twitter account.
Azizi said the attack was a retaliation for what he called Iranian state’s oppression against Sunni people in Sistan-Baluchestan, a mainly Sunni province that has a long history of unrest by separatist militants.
Iran’s Shi’ite Muslim authorities say militant groups have safe havens in Pakistan and has warned it would hit their bases there if Islamabad does not act.
“We expect Pakistan to confront these terrorist groups that are supported by some regional states, and immediately release the kidnapped Iranian forces,” the Revolutionary Guards said in a statement.
Iran has accused Saudi Arabia of funding separatist groups in the country. Riyadh has denied any involvement in Iranian internal affairs.
In September, the Revolutionary Guards killed four Sunni militants at a border crossing with Pakistan, including the second-in-command of Jaish al-Adl.
Reporting by Bozorgmehr SharafedinEditing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Robin Pomeroy, William Maclean