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Gunmen in Iran kill nine Pakistani citizens: ambassador

Unidentified gunmen have killed nine Pakistani workers in a restive southeastern border area of Iran, Pakistan's ambassador and a rights group say, amid efforts by the two countries to mend ties after tit-for-tat attacks.

"Deeply shocked by horrifying killing of 9 Pakistanis in Saravan. Embassy will extend full support to bereaved families," the Pakistani ambassador to Tehran Muhammad Mudassir Tipi said on the X platform.

"We called upon Iran to extend full co-operation in the matter."

The Baluch rights group Haalvash said on its website that the victims were Pakistani labourers who lived at a car repair shop where they worked. #

Three others were wounded, it said.

Iran's state media identified the dead only as foreign citizens and said no individuals or groups had claimed responsibility for the shootings in Saravan in restless Sistan-Baluchestan province.

"It is a horrifying and despicable incident and we condemn it unequivocally," Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said.

"We are in touch with Iranian authorities and have underscored the need to immediately investigate the incident and hold to account those involved."

The shootings occurred as Iranian state media said the Pakistani and Iranian ambassadors were returning to their postings after being recalled when the neighbouring countries exchanged missile strikes last week aimed at what each said were militant targets.

"The Iran-Pakistan border creates an opportunity for economic exchanges ... and must be protected against any insecurity," Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told Mudassir Tipi as he received the ambassador's credentials on Saturday, state media reported.

The impoverished Sistan-Baluchestan region has long been the scene of sporadic clashes between security forces and separatist militants and smugglers carrying opium from Afghanistan, the world's top producer of the drug.

Iran has some of the lowest fuel prices in the world and this has also led to increasing fuel-smuggling to Pakistan and Afghanistan despite a crackdown by Iranian border guards.