Iran: troops abducted to Pakistan now free
TEHRAN - Five Iranian soldiers who were abducted in early February by Sunni extremists and taken across the border into Pakistan have been released, the army's deputy chief of staff said Saturday.
They were kidnapped in the restive southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, scene of unrest in recent years by the Jaish-ul Adl militant group.
"The five Iranian soldiers kidnapped and taken to Pakistan have been freed," said General Massoud Jazayeri in remarks carried by the Fars news agency.
Jazayeri gave no further details about the release of the soldiers.
But earlier on Saturday, Pakistani officials said they had rescued 11 kidnapped foreigners -- eight Iranians, two Tunisians and one Yemeni -- in the southwest town of Turbat near the Iranian border.
The security officials said that those freed did not include the Iranian soldiers.
Their abduction infuriated authorities in the Shiite Islamic republic of Iran, and strained relations between the neighbouring states.
Iran warned in mid-February that it could send troops across the border to secure the release of the kidnapped soldiers, and denounced what it called Pakistan's inability to secure its own borders.
The foreign minister summoned a senior Pakistani diplomat and demanded that Islamabad "act firmly against the leaders and members of the terrorist group who have fled to Pakistan", media reported at the time.
Jaish-ul Adl, whose name in Arabic means Army of Justice, was formed in 2012 and has since claimed several operations targeting Iranians in Sistan-Baluchestan.
Last November it said it assassinated a local prosecutor, and the previous month claimed an ambush that killed 14 Iranian border guards.
In response, Iranian authorities executed eight Sunni insurgents and eight drug traffickers, describing all 16 as "rebels".