Relatives touch the coffin of a member of the Revolutionary Guards
Relatives touch the coffin of a member of the Revolutionary Guards in a suicide attack in Isfahan in a file photo. State TV said armed separatists concealed themselves among worshippers and attacked a police base near the mosque in Zahedan. Image Credit: AFP

Tehran: Iranian state-linked media reported late Friday that up to 19 people, including a commander in the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, were killed in an attack by armed separatists on a police base in the eastern city of Zahedan.

It was not immediately clear if the attack, which unfolded earlier in the day as crowds had gathered at a nearby mosque for Friday prayers, was related to the nationwide antigovernment protests gripping Iran. The reports did not identify the separatist group.

State TV said armed separatists concealed themselves among worshippers and attacked a police base near the mosque in Zahedan. The state-run IRNA news agency cited witnesses as saying that 19 people were killed and 15 wounded, but there was no official confirmation.

The semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported that the head of the Guard’s intelligence department, Seyyed Ali Mousavi, was shot during the attack and later died.

The Sistan and Balochestan province borders Afghanistan and Pakistan, and has seen previous attacks on security forces by ethnic Balochi separatists.

Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets over the last two weeks in protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who had been detained by the morality police in the capital, Tehran, for allegedly wearing her mandatory Islamic headscarf too loosely.

The protesters have vented anger over the treatment of women and wider repression in the Islamic Republic. The nationwide demonstrations rapidly escalated into calls for the overthrow of the clerical establishment that has ruled Iran since its 1979 Islamic revolution.