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TEHRAN: Iran has arrested the alleged killers of a Sunni cleric in the restive southeastern province of Sistan-Balochistan as they tried to flee across the border, a prosecutor said.

Abdulwahed Rigi, who led prayers at Imam Hossein Mosque in the city of Khash and was seen as a moderate cleric, was kidnapped and killed on Thursday, the authorities said at the time.

“Agents involved in the assassination... were identified and captured,” Mehdi Shamsabadi, chief prosecutor in the provincial capital Zahedan, was quoted as saying late Tuesday by the official IRNA news agency.

“They were arrested before crossing the border,” he said, adding a pistol had been seized and that it was “clear that they had been planning other assassinations”.

Shamsabadi accused the killers of seeking to stir trouble between Iran’s Sunnis and its predominantly Shiite population.

He did not specify how many people were arrested, but IRNA put the number at three, citing the intelligence ministry.

Sistan-Balochistan lies on Iran’s far southeastern border with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It is home to the ethnic Baluch minority and had been the site of often deadly violence even before nationwide protests erupted in September over the death in custody of 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini.

The Islamic republic has been gripped by demonstrations since the September 16 death of Amini, after her arrest by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women.

Iran’s top security body, the Supreme National Security Council, said on December 3 that more than 200 people had been killed in the unrest, including security personnel.

Human rights groups based abroad say Iran’s security forces have killed more than 450 people.