, TEHRAN, Oct 26 – Gunmen identified as “bandits or rebels opposed to the Islamic republic” killed 14 Iranian guards on the border with Pakistan in clashes overnight, state media reported on Saturday.
The official IRNA news agency, quoting what it called an informed source, said the clashes occurred in a mountainous region used by both drug traffickers and armed rebels.
“Fourteen border guards were killed during armed clashes in the region of Saravan, and five others were wounded,” the agency said.
The unnamed source identified the gunmen as “bandits or rebels opposed to the Islamic republic”.
Saravan lies in the southeastern province of Sistan Baluchestan near the Pakistani border and is home to a large community of minority Sunni Muslims, unlike the rest of Shiite dominated Iran.
The region has scene bloody clashes over the past few years and officials say that more than 4,000 police officers and soldiers have been killed in the past three decades in fighting with traffickers.
In October last year three Iranian border guards were killed in clashes with armed drug traffickers in the Koshtegan region, also near the border with Pakistan.
Iran is a major transit route for drugs that originate in Afghanistan and is trafficked across its territory, with much of it bound for Western countries.
The Islamic republic says it is fighting a deadly war against drug traffickers who make up half its prison population. Drug trafficking is punishable by death.