Gunmen kill nine Pakistani nationals in southeastern Iran

The shootings come as Tehran and Islamabad work to normalise ties after recent tit-for-tat attacks.

Gunmen have killed nine Pakistanis in a restive southeastern border area of Iran, Pakistan has said, amid efforts by the two countries to mend ties after recent 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 Tipi, said on the social media platform X on Saturday. “We called upon Iran to extend full cooperation in the matter.”

Earlier in the day, Iran’s semi-official Mehr News Agency reported the attack in Saravan in Sistan-Baluchestan province. It identified the dead only as foreign nationals and said no individuals or groups had claimed responsibility for the shootings.

The province’s deputy governor, Alireza Marhamati, told official news agency IRNA that according to survivors of the incident, “three armed people shot at the foreigners after entering their residence and fled the scene”. He confirmed the toll of nine deaths and said three others were wounded.

The Baluch rights group Haalvash said on its website that the victims were Pakistani labourers who lived at a car repair shop where they worked.

Calling the attack a “terrorist incident”, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said it was in touch with Iranian authorities and had asked Tehran to investigate the incident.

“It is a horrifying and despicable incident and we condemn it unequivocally,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said following the news.

“We are in touch with Iranian authorities and have underscored the need to immediately investigate the incident and hold to account those involved in this heinous crime.”

Iran-Pakistan tensions

The shootings occurred ahead of a planned visit on Monday to Pakistan by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani condemned the attack. “Iran and Pakistan won’t allow enemies to damage the brotherly ties between the two countries,” he said in a statement.

Iranian state media said the Pakistani and Iranian ambassadors were returning to their postings after being recalled when the neighbouring countries exchanged missile attacks last week aimed at what each said were armed group targets.

“The Iran-Pakistan border creates an opportunity for economic exchanges … and must be protected against any insecurity,” Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told Ambassador Mudassir Tipi as he received his credentials on Saturday, according to Iranian state media reports.

Sistan-Baluchistan, one of the few mainly Sunni Muslim provinces in Shia-dominated Iran, has seen persistent unrest involving cross-border drug-smuggling gangs, rebels from the Baluchi ethnic minority, and armed groups.

On January 18, Pakistan launched air raids on “militant targets” in Iran, two days after Iran had launched attacks on its territory.

Tehran said it had targeted Jaish al-Adl, a group that carried out a spate of deadly attacks in Iran in recent months. Formed in 2012, the group is blacklisted by Iran as a “terrorist” organisation.

The Iranian attacks, which Pakistan said killed at least two children, drew a sharp rebuke from Islamabad, which recalled its ambassador from Tehran and blocked Iran’s envoy from returning to Islamabad.

Tehran also summoned Islamabad’s charge d’affaires over Pakistan’s attacks, which had left at least nine people dead.

The two countries, however, announced last Monday that they had decided to de-escalate and resumed diplomatic missions with the two ambassadors returning to their posts.

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