Pakistan reacts strongly after gunmen kill 9 Pakistanis in Iran near border, tensions spike again.

Less than two weeks after Iran and Pakistan exchanged deadly cross-border strikes, gunmen in southeastern Iran have killed nine foreign nationals, according to reports in Iranian media. A subsequent statement from Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs protesting the incident indicated that the foreign nationals may have been Pakistani.

“According to witnesses, this morning unknown armed men killed nine non-Iranians in a house in the Sirkan neighbourhood of Saravan city in Sistan-Baluchistan province,” the Mehr news agency reported.

The agency further said that no group or individuals had claimed responsibility for the attack.

Pakistan’s ambassador to Tehran, Muhammad Mudassir Tipu posted on X that he was “deeply shocked by horrifying killing of 9 Pakistanis in Saravan”.

“Embassy will extend full support to bereaved families… We called upon Iran to extend full cooperation in the matter.”

Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, Spokesperson of Pakistan’s foreign ministry condemned the incident in Iran in a statement.

“It is a horrifying and despicable incident and we condemn it unequivocally. We are in touch with Iranian authorities and have underscored the need to immediately investigate the incident and hold to account those involved in this heinous crime. Moreover, our Consul in Zahedan is on way to the hospital where injured people are being treated and will reach there in a few hours due to long distances and security imperatives involved. He will also meet local authorities, and among other things, impress upon them the urgent need for strong action against the perpetrators of this crime. We are fully seized of this grave matter and are taking all necessary measures in this regard. The embassy will do its best to repatriate dead bodies at the earliest…” she said.

She added that the Pakistani embassy in Iran “will do its best to repatriate dead bodies at the earliest”. She further said that “such cowardly attacks cannot deter Pakistan from its determination to fight terrorism”.

Sistan-Baluchistan province is few of Sunni Muslim-dominated provinces in Shia-dominated Iran. The Iranian province shares border with Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

The border, splitting the region of Baluchistan between the two nations is porous. Armed rebel groups demanding an independent Baloch nation are active, stoking unrest, cross-border drug smuggling and more. The rebel groups claim to be fighting for the cause of Baluchi ethnic minority but also have jihadist elements in their ranks.

The border region saw a rare military action from both nations earlier this month. On January 18, Pakistan launched airstrikes on targets on the Iranian side of the border. The ‘militants targets’ as Pakistan put them, were attacked two days after Iranian military strikes on the Pakistani side of the border.

Iran claimed that it was targetting Jaish al-Adl which has carried out deadly attacks in Iran. The jihadist group was formed in 2012 and Iran has deemed it to be a “terrorist” organisation.

The strikes had strained diplomatic relations between the neighbours. Pakistan recalled its ambassador from Tehran and even blocked Iranian envoy from coming to Islamabad. Iran summoned Pakistan’s charge d’affaires over Pakistan’s strikes.

The tensions appeared to subside somewhat after both, Iran and Pakistan said on Monday that both countries had agreed to de-escalate and the two ambassadors returned to their posts.

The tension between Iran and Pakistan added to those in the region already inflamed by Israel-Hamas war.

(With inputs from agencies)