(Photo credit: Hossein Mersadi/AFP)
Four members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its auxiliary force, the Basij, were killed on 19 December in armed clashes in the city of Saravan, in the country’s southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan, the IRGC said in a statement.
They were reportedly killed “in a terrorist act, followed by an armed clash with a terrorist cell in the city of Saravan,” the IRGC statement read.
According to Iranian news outlet Tasnim, the victims were identified as Muhammad Goudarzi of the IRGC, as well as Rahim Bakhsh Biraki, Hamid Reza Abedi, and Mahmoud Negahzadeh of the Basij force.
As Iran continues to face waves of violent riots and armed attacks against its security forces, the government’s crackdown has received condemnation across the western world. Despite this, the Islamic Republic has maintained that foreign powers and intelligence agencies – particularly from the US and Israel – are fueling the unrest.
Just a day prior to the killings on Monday, Iran’s Ministry of Security announced that it dismantled a Mossad-run espionage network, as well as a weapon and ammunition smuggling ring in the southwestern Iranian city of Abadan.
Since the start of the nationwide protests triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini – many of which quickly developed into violent riots – arrests of this sort have become highly common, and Iran’s security forces have been working hard to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled into the country.
These weapons usually make their way into Iran through the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) and end up in the hands of rioters and separatist groups, as confirmed by former US national security chief John Bolton in a 7 November interview.
On 2 December, Iranian media published a report detailing the thwarting of a massive arms smuggling operation, showing photos of a huge cache of confiscated, Iran-bound weapons seized by Iraqi security forces. A week earlier, Iranian intelligence had busted a weapon smuggling ring in Sistan and Baluchestan.