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Pakistan briefly detains 11 Iranians

Associated Press / October 27, 2009

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QUETTA, Pakistan - Pakistan released 11 Iranians detained near the countries’ border today amid tensions over a deadly suicide attack in Iran that Tehran alleges has links to Pakistani intelligence officials, police said.

Authorities had first said the 11 were members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, but then reversed course and identified them only as security officers. They were arrested yesterday after they shot out the tires of a car carrying smugglers, Pakistan authorities said.

The arrests threatened to add to the strain between the two nations triggered by the Oct. 18 attack on the Iranian side of the border. On Sunday, the Pakistani president met Iran’s interior minister and vowed to track down the perpetrators of the blast.

Police official Dadur Rehman said the paramilitary Frontier Corps released the Iranians after an investigation.

“I do not have any idea why they were released,’’ Rehman said from the area where the Iranians were held. He said he had not been privy to the interrogation.

Pakistan has been accused of supporting militant activities in two other neighboring countries, Afghanistan and India, greatly complicating relations with both of them. Strains in its relationship with another regional power would only add to Pakistan’s problems as it battles Al Qaeda and the Taliban within its borders.

One Pakistani official said three senior officers among the detainees probably belonged to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

Iran’s Press TV carried what it described as a statement from the guard condemning the arrests, but saying that the 11 were not its members. The report cited sources as saying the arrested men were “border guards hunting fuel smugglers [who] accidentally entered Pakistan.’’