Pakistan asks Iran to act on militants behind Baluchistan killings

Pakistan asks Iran to act on militants behind Baluchistan killings
Pakistan asks Iran to act on militants behind Baluchistan killings

The Balochinsurgents who killed 14 people along Pakistan's coast this week are based inneighbouring Iran, Pakistan's foreign minister said on Saturday, heighteningtensions ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan's trip to Tehran on Sunday.

Relationsbetween Iran and Pakistan have been strained in recent months, with both sidesaccusing each other of not doing enough to stamp out militants allegedlysheltering across the border.

A newumbrella group representing various insurgent outfits operating in Pakistan'ssouthwestern Baluchistan province bordering Iran claimed responsibility for theattack on Thursday, when 14 passengers were killed after being kidnapped frombuses on southwestern Pakistan.

Themilitants checked the identity cards of passengers, singled out some of them,and then kidnapped and killed them. The Baloch Raji Aajoi Saangar (BRAS)umbrella group said it targeted Pakistani navy and Coast Guard officialstravelling on buses.

Anger overinsurgency

PakistaniForeign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said his country was angry about theattack and called for Iran to take action against BRAS militants.

"Thetraining camps and logistical camps of this new alliance…are inside theIranian border region," Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad.

Qureshi saidhe spoke to his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and conveyed to himthe "anger of Pakistani nation".

Iranianofficials could not be reached for comment. Iran's state news agency IRNAconfirmed the two men spoke.

"Iran'sforeign minister condemned the recent terrorist attack on Pakistan's militaryand security forces, and expressed sympathy for the Pakistani government andpeople," IRNA reported.

Pakistanipremier Imran Khan is due to arrive in Tehran on Sunday for a two-day visit.

Relationsbetween Pakistan and Iran have been strained in recent months after a suicidebomber killed 27 members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards in mid-Februaryin a southeastern region, with Iranian officials saying the attackers werebased inside Pakistan. The Sunni group Jaish al Adl (Army of Justice), whichsays it seeks greater rights and better living conditions for the ethnic Balochminority, claimed responsibility for that attack.

Iran'sShi'ite Muslim authorities say militant groups operate from safe havens inPakistan and have repeatedly called on the neighboring country to crack down onthem.

Ethnic Baloch people straddle the porous and lengthy Iran-Pakistan border, with many insurgent groups crisscrossing the border to the annoyance of authorities. Qureshi said Pakistan has decided to fence the border, just as it has started fencing its frontier with Afghanistan.

"Thework has already started from the points that are frequently misused,"Qureshi said. "We intend to seal this whole border which spreads to 950kilometres, gradually."

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