Five Iranian security personnel who had been held by jihadists for a month have been flown home after Pakistani forces secured their release, Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said on Thursday, November 22.
The five were part of a mixed unit of 12 border guards, militiamen and IRGC members who were captured by the Pakistan-based Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) during an operation near the border on October 16, a state television-run news agency reported.
Images released later by their captors showed seven IRGC members and five police commandos.
The Iranians, including intelligence officers, were abducted near Lulakdan, a village 150 km (90 miles) southeast of Zahedan, capital of the southeastern province of Sistan and Balochistan.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry announced on November 15 that police and troops had secured the release of five of the captives and were still trying to free the others.
“Following efforts and interactions with the Pakistani side to free the border guards and militiamen,” five of them “were released and returned to Iran last night”, the IRGC said.
The IRGC website carried photographs of the five being welcomed home by generals as they got off the plane.
Five of the 14 #Iranian border guards who had been abducted by terrorists at a military post on the common border with #Pakistan back in October returned home following consultations with Pakistani diplomatic and military officialshttps://t.co/wwWXU1twPv pic.twitter.com/Czuv6r376Q
— Tasnim News Agency (@Tasnimnews_EN) November 22, 2018
Sistan and Balochistan has long been a flashpoint, with Pakistan-based Baluchi separatists and jihadists carrying out regular cross-border raids against Iran.
The province has a large, mainly Sunni Muslim ethnic Baluchi community which straddles the border.
Jaish al-Adl, which claimed the capture of the Iranian personnel and is labelled a terrorist group by Iran, was formed in 2012 as a successor organisation to the Sunni extremist group Jundallah (Soldiers of God) which waged a deadly insurgency against Iranian targets over the previous decade.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visited Islamabad twice in a month for briefings on the progress of the efforts to secure the captured unit’s release.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi blamed the kidnapping on “our common enemies unhappy with the existing close, friendly relations between Pakistan and Iran.”
With reporting from AFP