TEHRAN: Iran has arrested 40 members of a “terrorist group” who plotted to attack military targets in Sistan and Baluchestan province, the interior minister said on Thursday.
The province, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan, has been the scene of armed clashes in recent weeks between Iranian forces and Sunni militants.
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli, in statements carried by the official IRNA news agency, did not identify those detained.
He said the suspects had built a tunnel 40 metres long and 20 metres deep which they had planned to use to carry out attacks.
The governor of Khash city said those arrested had “intended to carry out terrorist and sabotage acts” against important military and security centres.
Mohammad Akbar Sharekzehi said the suspects had “advanced military equipment” and were arrested by security forces in a house before they could carry out “their evil plan”.
On July 6, media reported that four Iranian border guards were killed in a clash with rebels in the province.
In June, state television said a police officer and five “terrorists” said to be members of the Jaish al Adl group were killed in the Khash region.
The same month, Iran’s intelligence ministry said it had thwarted a major plot to carry out bomb attacks in Tehran and other provinces and arrested suspects, without elaborating.
Jaish al Adl is thought to be behind a number of attacks in Sistan and Baluchestan in recent years and Iran accuses it of ties to Pakistan-based Al Qaeda cells.
The province lies on a major transit route for opium and heroin being smuggled from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Europe, the Middle East and Africa and security forces also clash frequently with drug traffickers.