Tehran’s interior minister claims the would-be militants were captured while traveling through Iran.
Afghan and Pakistani nationals planning to join the ranks of Islamic State jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq have been arrested in Iran, a government minister announced Monday.
“People from Afghanistan and Pakistan wanted to cross Iran but we prevented them passing and we have arrested others,” said Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, linking them to IS. The report, carried by the official IRNA news agency, did not specify how many arrests had been made or where the detentions occurred.
Iran shares a border with Pakistan and Afghanistan to the east and Iraq to the west. “Our forces are particularly vigilant in the border areas given that they face threats from terrorist groups,” the minister added.
Iran and Iraq, predominantly Shia states, have strengthened their ties since the fall of the latter’s Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in a U.S.-led invasion launched in 2003, and the subsequent occupation. U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011 but the rapid advance of IS into Iraq from Syria in June forced Washington to send military advisers to Baghdad and cooperation has since expanded to airstrikes on militant targets.
Iran has also sent military assistance to Iraq but has denied that it has any troops on the ground.