TEHRAN: Nineteen people including a Revolutionary Guards colonel were killed on Friday during heavy gun battles in the southeastern Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan, state media reported.
It was not immediately clear whether the clashes were connected to the wave of unrest that has swept Iran since the death of Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in morality police custody earlier this month.
"Nineteen people were killed and 20 injured in the incident," regional governor Hossein Khiabani told the state broadcaster. "Provincial intelligence officer of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Colonel Ali Mousavi was also killed," state television added.
Poverty-stricken Sistan-Baluchistan, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan, is a flashpoint for clashes with drug smuggling gangs, as well as rebels from the Baluchi minority and Sunni Muslim extremist groups.
Earlier Friday, state media reported that security forces had returned fire when a police station in the provincial capital Zahedan came under attack by gunmen. "A number of police members as well as passers-by have been injured in the exchange of fire," the state broadcaster said.