ISLAMABAD - Pakistan alleged Saturday that anti-state militants operating out of “terrorist camps” inside Iran are behind this week’s slaying of 14 security personnel in a remote southwestern Pakistani region, and Islamabad has formally shared “credible” evidence with Tehran so action can be taken against the perpetrators.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi revealed the details at news conference in the Pakistani capital, saying Prime Minister Imran Khan will further discuss the issue with Iranian leaders during his first official visit to the neighboring country that begins Sunday.
The deadly attack happened Thursday in the Gwadar border district, where officials say a group of up to 20 assailants disguised as Pakistani paramilitary forces stopped several passenger buses on the coastal highway, and then went through identification cards of all the passengers before abducting and spraying 14 of them with bullets.
Qureshi said the slain men included 10 navy personnel, three air force officers and a coast guard official. He noted that assailants linked to a newly-formed alliance of three ethnic Baluch “terrorist organizations” carried out the “dastardly act” before returning to their “training and logistical camps” on the Iranian side of the border.
“After collecting and verifying actionable evidence through our internal investigations, we have shared it with authorities in Iran. We have also identified location of these camps and expect that our brotherly neighbor Iran will take action against these organizations,” the Pakistani foreign minister said.
The militant coalition Bras (meaning brothers in local language) took responsibility for the highway violence. It also has plotted attacks against Pakistani security forces, as well as government installations in violence-hit Baluchistan province, where Gwadar is located. The natural-resource rich Pakistani region also borders Afghanistan.
Qureshi said he telephoned Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif earlier in the day and received solid assurances from Zarif that Tehran is ready to fully cooperate with Islamabad to bring the militants to justice.
The Pakistani foreign minister said the two sides agreed to bolster security along their common border of more than 900-kilometers to stop terrorist infiltration in either direction. He explained that in addition to deploying additional forces and helicopter surveillance, Pakistan already has begun fencing the “most vulnerable” portions of the border with Iran.
For its part, Tehran routinely alleges that Jaish-e-Adl, a dissident Sunni militant organization of Iranian Baluch, uses hideouts on Pakistani soil to orchestrate “terrorist” violence in its border region known as Sistan-Baluchistan.
Qureshi said Saturday that Pakistani security forces, acting on Iranian request, recently rescued and sent back home nine of the 12 Iranian border guards who had been abducted and brought to the Pakistani side of the border.
Jaish-e-Adl took responsibly for the hostage taking. Iran alleges the terrorist organization receives support from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, charges both countries reject.
Foreign minister Qureshi also called on Afghan authorities to act against Baluch fugitives, saying Pakistan has “concrete” evidence the militants also are using the neighboring country’s soil to plot cross-border terrorism. Kabul did not offer any immediate reaction to the charges but it previously has denied such allegations made by Islamabad.