Screen grab from a video showing the police station in Rask. Dec. 15, 2023

Sunni Militants Attack Police Station In Iran, Killing 12

Friday, 12/15/2023

An armed group believed to be the militant Sunni Jaish al-Adl launched a deadly attack on a police station in Rask, a small city in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan Province.

Iranian state media and Baluch groups reported that at least 12 police officers and several of the attackers were killed as gunfire continued for hours at the main police headquarters. Seven police officers were injured, with some in critical condition, media in Tehran reported.

The poverty-stricken province bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan has a large Sunni population from the Baluch ethnic group, that has been under pressure by Iran’s Shiite clerical rulers. It has long been the site of frequent clashes between security forces and Sunni militants, as well as drug smugglers.

The militant group Jaish al-Adl, which says it seeks greater rights and better living conditions for ethnic minority Baluchis, claimed responsibility for the attack. The group has launched several attacks in recent years on Iranian security forces in the province.

A police spokesman confirmed the attack and said several assailants and officers have been killed but insisted that the situation in Rask is under control. Jaish al-Adl in a statement said that its forces attacked the police headquarters at 2:00 am Friday.

Fars news agency affiliated with the IRGC published photos of 11 police officers initially announced as victims of the attack.

Baluch human rights monitoring groups reported large explosions and sounds of intense gunfights around the police headquarters. One group said that government surveillance drones were flying over Rask and added that fighting was continuing after five hours. Quoting local sources, the monitoring group said that there is a heavy presence of security forces in Rask and surrounding hills. Internet access is also affected.

The report said that three hours after the attack started, reinforcements that were coming to assist the police station were also targeted by militants.

In July, Jaish al-Adl attacked a police station in Zahedan, the provincial capital. It said that the particular police station was involved in the massacre of around 90 civilians on September 30, 2022, known as “Black Friday.” Worshippers who began anti-government protests after Friday prayers were met with gunfire by security forces. This was when protests were spreading elsewhere in the country following the death of Mahsa Amini in the hands of the hijab police.

Since Black Friday, the people of Zahedan have been protesting every Friday amid tight security and hundreds of arrests by security forces.

The outspoken Sunni cleric in Zahedan, Mowlavi Abolhamid, has repeatedly criticized the Shiite-led government in Iran, asking for tolerance for religious minorities, equal rights for women and an end to repression. During anti-government protests in 2022 and early 2023, Iranian Sunnis suffered more casualties than the Shiite majority, showing harsh methods by security forces in Sunni majority regions. A substantial number of Kurds living in Western Iran are also Sunnis, that are estimated to be 10-15 percent of Iran’s 85-million population.

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