DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An attack by armed separatists on a police station in a southeastern American city has killed 19 people, including three members of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported on Saturday.
The attackers in Friday’s attack hid among worshipers near a mosque in the city of Zahedan and attacked a nearby police station, the report said.
IRNA quoted Hossein Montaresi, the governor of the province, as saying 19 people were killed. The report said 32 members of the Guard, including volunteer Basiji forces, were also injured in the clashes.
It was not immediately clear whether the attack was related to nationwide anti-government protests that have gripped Iran following the death of a young Iranian woman in police custody.
Sistan and Baluchistan province borders Afghanistan and Pakistan and has seen previous attacks on security forces by ethnic Baluchi separatists, although Saturday’s Tasnim report did not identify a separatist group allegedly involved in the attack.
IRNA on Saturday identified the dead as Hamidreza Hashemi, a colonel in the Revolutionary Guards. Mohammad Amin Azarshokr, a member of the Guard; and Mohamad Amin Arefi, a Basiji, or volunteer force of the IRG. Tasnim and other Iranian state-linked news outlets reported Friday that the head of the Guard’s intelligence department, Seyed Ali Mousavi, was shot during the attack and later died.
It is not uncommon for IRG members to be present at police bases across the country.
Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets in the past two weeks to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was detained by morality police in the capital Tehran for allegedly wearing her obligatory Islamic headscarf too loosely. .
Protesters have vented their anger at the treatment of women and the wider crackdown in the Islamic Republic. Nationwide protests quickly escalated into calls for the overthrow of the clerical establishment that has ruled Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The protests have drawn supporters from various ethnic groups, including Kurdish opposition movements in the northwest that operate along the border with neighboring Iraq. Amini was an Iranian Kurd and the protests initially broke out in Kurdish areas.
Iran’s state television reported that at least 41 protesters and police have been killed since the protests began on September 17. A number of official statements by authorities to The Associated Press put at least 14 dead, with more than 1,500 protesters arrested.
It was difficult to gauge the extent of the protests, particularly outside Tehran. Iranian media has only sporadically covered the protests.
Witnesses said scattered demonstrations involving dozens of demonstrators took place around a university in central Tehran on Saturday. The police dispersed the demonstrators who chanted “death to the dictator”.