Iran, Taliban Exchange Heavy Gunfire 05/27 08:11
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- The Taliban and Iran exchanged heavy
gunfire Saturday on the Islamic Republic's border with Afghanistan, sharply
escalating rising tensions between the two nations amid a dispute over water
Iran's state-run IRNA news agency quoted the country's deputy police chief,
Gen. Qassem Rezaei, accusing the Taliban of opening fire first Saturday morning
on the border of Iran's Sistan and Baluchestan province and the Afghan province
of Nimroz. IRNA said Iran inflicted "heavy casualties and serious damage."
Taliban-controlled media in Afghanistan did not acknowledge the fighting.
The advocacy group HalVash, which reports on issues affecting the Baluch
people in the predominately Sunni province of Sistan and Baluchestan, quoted
residents in the area saying the fighting took place near the Kang district of
Nimroz. It said some people in the area had fled the violence.
Videos posted online, purportedly from the area, included the crackle of
machine gun fire in the distance. HalVash later posted an image of what
appeared to be the remains of a mortar round, saying that "heavy weapons and
mortars are being used." A later video from HalVash purported to show Iranian
forces firing a mortar.
"The border forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran will decisively respond
to any border trespassing and aggression, and the current authorities of
Afghanistan must be held accountable for their unmeasured and contrary actions
to international principles," IRNA quoted Iran's police chief, Gen. Ahmadreza
Radan, as saying.
The clash comes as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi earlier this month warned
the Taliban not to violate Iran's water rights to the Helmand River. Raisi's
remarks represented some of the strongest yet over the long-running concerns
about water in Iran.
Drought has been a problem in Iran for some 30 years, but has worsened over
the past decade, according to the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization. The
Iran Meteorological Organization says that an estimated 97% of the country now
faces some level of drought.
The Taliban seized Afghanistan in August 2021 as U.S. and NATO troops were
in the final weeks of their pullout from the country after 20 years of war. In
the time since, Afghanistan has become the most repressive in the world for
women and girls, depriving them of virtually all their basic rights, according
to the U.N. Hunger remains endemic.
While not directly accepting the Taliban government, Iran has maintained
relations with Afghanistan's new rulers. Tehran also has called on the Taliban
to allow women and girls to go to school.
Earlier on Saturday, the Taliban's Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi
met with an Iranian envoy to Afghanistan to discuss the Helmand River water
rights, according to tweets from Afghan Foreign Ministry official Zia Ahmad.
IRNA acknowledged the meeting, saying "that issues between the two countries
will be better resolved through dialogue."
But tensions have otherwise been rising. Another video posted online in
recent days purportedly showed a standoff with Iranian forces and the Taliban
as Iranian construction workers tried to reinforce the border between the two
In recent days, pro-Taliban accounts online also have been sharing a video
with a song calling on the acting defense minister, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, to
stand up to Iran. Mullah Yaqoob is the son of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the
Taliban's late founder and first supreme leader.
"We are a government, we have power," the song goes. "Our leader Mullah
Yaqoob will stand against Iran or we are not the republic's government. We are
not slaves, our leader Mullah Yaqoob will stand against Iran."