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Iran Commander Says Deadly Clash With 'Smugglers' Prompts Attack On Guards

A semiofficial Iranian news agency has reported a clash between border guards and a group of angry protesters near the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran after a shooting incident.

Fars news agency said the border patrol had shot and killed an alleged smuggler aboard a vessel near the port of Kohstak in the coastal Hormozgan Province on March 12 and pursued other boats that fled the area.

The area has been the scene of unrest recently, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has sought to crack down on informal trade in the area.

Many of those now being labeled "smugglers" and drawing deadly responses from authorities have long been accustomed to lax enforcement of cross-border business in gasoline and other goods.

Fars quoted Hormozgan border commander Hossein Dehki as saying guards shot and killed a 31-year-old resident of nearby Sirik while trying to apprehend boats engaged in smuggling.

Dehki said news of the shooting attracted protesters who "attacked the Hormozgan border guards' headquarters at the port of Kohstak and damaged a number of the organization's vessels and naval equipment" and oil-company vehicles.

It also said they had attacked and "seriously injured" several border guards.

Tensions have been high in underdeveloped southern Iran since a clash with alleged fuel smugglers last month in neighboring Sistan-Baluchistan Province resulted in three "smuggler" deaths.

That incident sparked a crowd attack on a local governor's office in Saravan, near the border with Pakistan.

That region is heavily Sunni Muslim, a source of frequent friction with Iran's Shi'a-dominated leadership.

The border commander in Hormozgan, Dehki, said coast guards have seized more than 10 million liters of fuel from smugglers in the past year.

With reporting by AP