Gun battle leaves two Iranian policemen, four gunmen dead near Pakistan

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Two police officers and four attackers were killed on Saturday when gunmen and suicide bombers stormed a police station in the mostly Sunni city of Zahedan in Iran’s restive southeast, state television reported.

Zahedan, capital of Sistan-Baluchistan province, was scene of some of the bloodiest protests during a wave of nationwide unrest last year triggered by the death of a young Kurdish woman in the custody of the morality police.

A militant group operating in the area called Jaish al-Adl, or Army of Justice, claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack in a social media post, saying it was in retaliation for the deaths of protesters killed by security forces on September 30, 2022.

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It said the police station targeted was “one of the main perpetrators of the Bloody Friday calamity in Zahedan.”

State television said “all four terrorists” had died in the raid.

Amnesty International said security forces killed at least 66 people in the September 30 crackdown on demonstrators.

Authorities sacked Zahedan’s police commander and a police station chief afterwards, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei sent a delegation to negotiate with critical Sunni Baluch clerics.

Public anger grew in Zahedan in the lead up to the September 30 crackdown following allegations circulated on social media about the rape of a local teenage girl by a police officer.

Molavi Abdolhamid, Iran’s most prominent Sunni cleric and a long-time critic of Iran’s Shia leaders, condemned the attack on the police station, urging Baluchistan residents to avoid actions that would lead to a breakdown in security.

Sistan-Baluchistan, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan, is one of Iran’s poorest provinces and a major drug trafficking route.

Human rights groups say the Baluch minority, estimated to number up to 2 million people, has faced discrimination and repression for decades.

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