TEHRAN (Reuters) - A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander on Tuesday said his force should be given permission to hunt down “terrorists” inside neighboring Pakistan, state television reported.
Iran says the Sunni rebel group Jundollah (God’s soldiers), which has claimed a suicide bombing in southeastern Iran that killed 42 people on Sunday, operates from across the border in Pakistan. The attack killed several senior Guards commanders.
The television report, which gave no direct quotes, said the commander of the Guards’ ground forces, Mohammad Pakpour, called for the “issuing of necessary permissions allowing the Guards to confront terrorists on Pakistani soil.”
It did not give details or specify whether he was referring to authorization for such an operation from the Pakistani government or from Iranian authorities.
Guards commander-in-chief Mohammad Ali Jafari said on Monday Jundollah had ties with U.S., British and Pakistani intelligence organizations.
Washington, London and Islamabad have all denied involvement in Sunday’s suicide bombing attack in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan province which borders both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
On Monday, an Iranian MP also raised the prospect of a possible cross-border military operation into Pakistan against the militants blamed for Sunday’s attack.
“There is unanimity about the Revolutionary Guards and the security forces engaging in operations in any place they would deem necessary,” ISNA news agency quoted MP Payman Forouzesh as saying, appearing to refer to agreement on the issue among lawmakers.
“There is even unanimity that these operations (could) take place in Pakistan territory,” said the representative from Sistan-Baluchestan province.
Sunday’s attack was the deadliest such incident in Iran since its 1980-88 war with Iraq.
Thousands of people, many of them military men, attended the funeral ceremony at a Guards base in Tehran on Tuesday, holding pictures of the victims and of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“Khamenei, we are ready for martyrdom,” one banner read.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the perpetrators were based in Pakistan and carried out cross-border raids.
“Members of this terrorist group regularly violate the border and launch attacks inside Iran,” he told a news conference. “The hands of those behind the crimes in southeastern Iran must be cut.”
He said Iran and Pakistan would hold talks on how to resolve the issue, saying they shared a “border of friendship.”
Reporting by Hossein Jaseb and Reza Derakhshi; writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Angus MacSwan