Iranian security forces battled simultaneous terrorist attacks by a militant separatist group in a southwest province that raged for nearly 17 hours, with intense gunfights in the streets of two cities that resulted in the deaths of 10 security officers and 18 militants, according to the Ministry of Interior on Thursday.

State television broadcast footage of gunmen running in the streets of Sistan Baluchestan Province as loud explosions from rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire rocked the two cities, and large plumes of smoke billowed into the air. Forty-four people were injured, the ministry said.

Jaish al-Adl, a separatist ethnic Baluch group designated by the United States as a terrorist organization, claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Iran’s deputy interior minister, Majid Mirahmadi, said on state television that the fighting had raged for hours, from 10 p.m. Wednesday to 3 p.m. the next day. The gunmen entered homes, taking civilians hostage to use as human shields, but security forces released them, he said. The militants wore vests with explosives, and several blew themselves up during the fighting, he added.

The gunmen tried to take over military bases belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is responsible for securing Iran’s borders, in the cities of Chabahar, home to a shipping port, and Rask, according to a statement from the Guards published in Iranian news media.

“They did not achieve their ominous goals and failed,” Mr. Mirahmadi said on state television. “Their goal was to seize the headquarters of the Revolutionary Guards in Rask and martyr the security forces, and capture the headquarters of the Guards, naval outposts and security forces headquarters in Chabahar.”

The attacks came at a time of heightened tensions in the country. Israeli airstrikes on the Iranian Embassy in the Syrian capital, Damascus, killed three senior commanders from the Guards’ Quds Forces and four officers on Monday. Iranian officials vowed to retaliate against Israel.

The southwest region of Iran where the attacks took place is a restive and underdeveloped area near the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan. A robust network of smugglers, drug lords and separatist Sunni militant groups like Jaish al-Adl operate in the area. Clashes with security forces are frequent along the borders. The population of Sistan Baluchestan, which is predominantly ethnic Baluch and Sunni, has long accused the central Shiite government of systematic discrimination.

Jaish al-Adl, known informally as Jundullah, said in a statement that 168 of its fighters had taken part in the attack. The statement said the aim had been to stop Iran’s development of an area known as Makan, on the shores of the Persian Gulf, which the group said compromised the Sunni-dominated demographic.

The Revolutionary Guards’ statement warned that the security of the Iranian people was a red line and that Iran’s enemies — “regional and terrorist groups commissioned by their spy agencies” — would be forcefully confronted. State television, blaming Israel, also said that “Zionist masters” had ordered the terrorist attacks.

A woman who is an advocate of Baluch rights locally and who asked to be identified only by her middle name, Ziba, for fear of retribution, said that the attacks had shocked people and caught them off guard as they closely followed the drama unfolding on television and social media. She lives in Zahedan, a city in Sistan Baluchestan, which, she said, remained calm.

Videos on state television and social media showed the walls and ceilings of a Revolutionary Guards security building in Chabahar riddled with bullets and splattered with blood. The bodies of militants lay on the streets and inside buildings, state media showed. Residents posted videos on social media, and BBC Persian showing people stranded in their cars as the fighting raged.

A woman in a hospital bed told a state television reporter that gunmen had thrown grenades into homes and that her windows had been shattered. Another man, also in a hospital bed, told the reporter that a militant had spotted him when he was caught in the crossfire on the street and shot him in the hand.

In December, Jaish al-Adl attacked a border police station in Rask and killed 11 security officers in response to ballistic missiles Iran launched into Pakistan. The group claimed Iran had targeted its compound. Pakistan struck back with drone attacks on a residential compound in Iran that it said housed terrorist groups operating against the government.

In January, the Islamic State staged an attack in Kerman, Iran, killing more than 100 people during a memorial for Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s top commander, who was assassinated in 2020 in a U.S. drone attack in Iraq.

Attacks by Israel in Iran, including on two major gas lines; its strikes against targets in Syria affiliated with Iran; a string of terrorist assaults in Iran; and the prospect of a confrontation with Israel have created panic and anxiety in Iran. The price of Iran’s currency, the rial, has plunged daily against the dollar this week, at its lowest reaching 640,000 against one dollar.

Shahin Modarres, an analyst in Rome who specializes in Iran’s security for an Italian research institution, said of the Jaish al-Adl militants, “Their adeptness indicates a deep understanding of local military and critical infrastructure, posing a significant challenge for Iranian authorities.”

“The timing is also quite significant,” he said, referring to Iran, “because they are under direct attack from Israel and, at the same time, their intelligence system is heavily compromised as the recent terrorist attacks have shown.”


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