A series of attacks have marked some of the most violent weeks in southeastern Iran in the last decade. At least 16 Iranians are dead.
Jaysh Al Adl, a Sunni extremist group based in Pakistan, has claimed responsibility for all of the attacks.
An assault on a border fort in early September foreshadowed the October attacks. On Sept. 9, nearly 200 JAA militants, riding in more than 50 trucks, overwhelmed Border Outpost 171.
The assailants fired rocket-propelled grenades to destroy one of the border guards’ BMP-2 armored vehicles. Rebels parked a truck filled with 600 kilograms of explosive inside the post beside another BMP—and detonated it.
One Iranian guard died in the raid. The other defenders abandoned the outpost, preventing major bloodshed. But the October attacks were more lethal.
Guerrilla attacks are not unusual in southeastern Iran. Narcotics trafficking and a large Sunni population contribute to the region’s volatility. In November 2013, ambushers killed 17 border guards inside their outpost. And five months later Sunni extremists kidnapped five border guards, eventually releasing four of them.
In the past, the terrorists would quickly retreat into Pakistan after completing their raids, taking advantage of the porous border. Now the assailants are bolder. They mount sustained attacks over periods of days or weeks.
Two days after the initial attack on Border Outpost 171, insurgents triggered a roadside bomb to blow up a truck carrying four Iranian intelligence officials on a supposedly secret tour of the border zone. All four died.
On Oct. 8, rebels ambushed a police patrol, killing three cops.
And early in the morning on Oct. 9, Iranian emergency service in Saravan city near the Iran-Pakistan border received a distress call. A patrol car responding to the call came under fire from attackers riding in two sedans and wielding AK-47s.
At 6:00 that same morning, police found an abandoned car matching the description of one of the sedans. They towed the car to police headquarters—and at 7:30, a bomb concealed inside the vehicle exploded.
On Oct. 10, another bomb targeted a police car. And the next day, an Aero Commander 680 plane belonging to Islamic Republic Police Aviation was carrying three high-ranking police officers to the region of the recent attacks for an official investigation when it crashed near the city of Zahedan.
All several people on the plane died. The exact circumstances of the crash are not clear yet. One policeman died and three were hurt in a bomb blast while attempting to reach the Aero Commander’s crash site.
In all, at least 16 police have died in attacks and related accidents since September. Iran’s retaliation could be swift and brutal.
After a border raid in November 2013 killed 17 guards, Iranian officials executed 14 Sunni prisoners as a kind of payback. Iran has a history of carrying out drone and missile strikes inside Pakistan, too.
According to locals, the Zahedan police department has raided several homes it believes to be JAA safe houses. Heavy gunfire and explosions could be heard across the city on Oct. 9 and 10.
On Oct. 10, Saravan police commander Gen. Davoodi announced that his officers had arrested 14 suspects in connection with the recent attacks.