KABUL: Tehran will set up a team to investigate an incident in which Iranian guards were alleged to have been responsible for the drowning of a group of illegal Afghan migrants earlier this month, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.
“Iranian border officials refuted the findings of the government and will send a high-ranking delegation to the Afghan side for investigation,” Gran Hewad told Arab News, citing the findings of a team of Afghan Border Commissioners who were sent to Iran for an investigation.
The Afghan commissioners have handed over the investigation to diplomatic authorities based on a bilateral border agreement, he added.
“The Iranian authorities have informed Afghanistan Embassy in Tehran that they, too, have appointed a diplomatic team to address the matter further,” Hewad said.
As part of a move to draw global attention to the alleged incident which took place on May 1, several Afghans on Monday gathered outside the UN compound in the western city of Herat, which lies near the border with Iran and is home to most of the 46 migrants.
“We staged the rally because this incident was the most brutal of all and the world must take this matter seriously,” Hamid Rasa, one of the participants told Arab News by phone from Herat.
Rasa, along with several others, urged the UN to investigate the incident, with locals saying the migrants had crossed into Iran at night, and were detained, tortured and forced at gunpoint to jump into a river the next day. The Harirud River, where the alleged incident took place, forms the border between the two countries.
“Out of the 46 people involved, 13 drowned, 14 are still missing and 19 managed to survive,” Hewad said.
Afghan border commissioners interviewed villagers, survivors and the victims’ next of kin before sharing the evidence with their Iranian counterparts, “who rejected the findings,” he said.
Reports of the incident sparked anger in Kabul, with Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar raising the matter with Iranian officials during a “tense interaction” days later.
In recent years, Iran and Afghanistan have had uneasy ties, with Kabul complaining that Tehran uses Afghan Shiite migrants to fight its proxy wars in the Middle East, as well as providing cash and arms to Taliban insurgents fighting the Afghan government and US-led troops in Afghanistan.