Pakistan confirmed Thursday that its security forces have rescued five abducted Iranian border guards, saying efforts to recover other captives are ongoing.
An anti-Iran Sunni militant organization known as Jaish al-Adl kidnapped a group of 12 security guards a month ago in the southeastern Iranian border city of Mirjaveh and took the captives to the Pakistani side of the porous frontier between the two countries.
Tehran demanded Islamabad help recover the men.
“With concerted efforts of the Pakistani LEAs (law enforcement agencies) and armed forces, five abducted Iranian guards have been safely recovered,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal announced in Islamabad.
He added the Iranians are in good health and the Pakistani military-led “concerted efforts” to recover the other guards were continuing.
The Pakistani statement came hours after the chief commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, disclosed to reporters that the five guards were free and hosted by authorities in the neighboring country.
Jaish al-Adl claimed responsibility for the October 15 kidnapping and demanded release of its prisoners in Iran in exchange for the abductees.
The incident occurred in Sistan-Baluchistan province, which has a long history of violence by separatist militants. It borders Pakistan’s sparsely populated province of Baluchistan.
The Iranian province has been the scene of clashes involving Iranian forces and militants as well as drug traffickers.
Iranian separatists say their violence is retaliation for what they call Iran’s oppression against Sistan-Baluchistan’s predominantly Sunni population.
Pakistan and Iran share a more than 900-kilometer-long border.
Tehran alleges that militants involved in terrorist attacks in Iran use Pakistani territory to plot them. The allegation remains a source of tension in Islamabad’s otherwise friendly and traditionally close relationship with Tehran.
The Pakistani military has recently deployed thousands of additional troops on the border to boost security. Islamabad has previously captured and handed over to Tehran leaders and members of anti-Iran groups.