DUBAI/BEIRUT: Iran is investigating an incident in which at least two Iranians were shot dead this week at the border with Pakistan, and Islamabad has handed over the body of one of the victims, the Iranian foreign ministry said on Friday.

Earlier, Human Rights Watch called on Iran to investigate the deadly shooting by Revolutionary Guards against smugglers attempting to transport fuel into neighbouring Pakistan for excessive use of force.

Monday’s shooting in the border area near the town of Saravan killed at least 10 people and wounded five, HRW said, citing Baloch activists. The shooting led to protests that spread from Saravan to other areas in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, including capital Zahedan.

Iran claimed that the shooting occurred in Pakistan, but Pakistani border officials said protests broke out on the Iranian side of the frontier after Iranian forces fired at people involved in the illegal Iranian fuel trade.

A policeman was reported to have been killed in the unrest in Iran’s southeast, but a provincial security official said calm had returned with the help of religious leaders. Media quoted prominent Baloch religious leader Molavi Abdulhamid as urging calm and calling for an independent investigation.

“The body of at least one person was delivered by Pakistan’s border guards. We are reviewing the incident,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

Protesters stormed the governor’s office in southeastern Iran on Tuesday and set fire to a police car, according to videos posted on social media. Security forces used tear gas to disperse the crowd.

HRW alleged that Iran’s Revol­utionary Guard Corps had blocked a road used to transport fuel before apparently opening fire at people attempting to reopen the route. “The Iranian authorities should urgently conduct a transparent and impartial investigation into the shootings at the Saravan border,” said HRW Iran researcher Tara Sepehri Far.

“The authorities should hold those responsible for wrongdoing to account, appropriately compensate victims and ensure that border guards are taking the utmost precautions to respect the right to life and other human rights.”

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2021

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