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The Associated Press, May 12, 2013

Afghanistan accuses Iran of holding 21 laborers

Several wounded laborers were brought to a district hospital in Farah

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghanistan has accused Iran of holding as many as 21 migrant Afghan workers following a border shooting incident over the weekend and has filed a formal complaint to Tehran, an official said Sunday.

According to local accounts, Iranian border guards opened fire on the Afghan laborers on Friday as they tried to cross the boundary illegally looking for work, said Abdul Rahman Zhawandai, a spokesman for the provincial governor in the northwestern Farah province.

Several wounded laborers were brought to a district hospital in Farah, Zhawandai said. Some of them said four of their compatriots were killed in the shooting and 21 were taken by the Iranian guards, the official said.

But details remained sketchy and the laborers' testimonies conflicted, Zhawandai added.

Afghans injured by Iranian guards' fire at border in Farah hospital
Afghans injured by Iranian guards' fire at border lying in a Farah hospital. (Photo: Hambastagi.org)

In Kabul, Afghanistan's foreign ministry spokesman, Janan Mosazai, told reporters that a complaint was lodged Saturday with Iran's ambassador to Afghanistan.

"We are following this issue very seriously through our embassy in Tehran," said Mosazai. He added that while the migrants were trying to enter Iran illegally, "the reaction of Iran should have been a civilian reaction, not a military" one - a reference to the shooting.

In Tehran, Iran's chief of border guards, Gen. Hamid Sharafi, denied there was any shooting at Afghan migrants, according to Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency.

"Such a report is not right. We do not confirm it based on our investigations," Sharafi was quoted as saying.

Protests over the incident erupted on Sunday, with dozens of local residents rallying in the streets of the provincial capital, also named Farah, shouting anti-Iranian slogans.

Poor Afghans routinely try to sneak into Iran in search of work as day laborers.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a roadside bomb on Sunday killed a district prosecutor in southern Helmand province, where Taliban insurgents roam with relative ease in much of the countryside.

The bomb struck early in the morning as prosecutor Mohammed Lal Hakimi was on his way to work, said Ummar Zawaq, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

Zawaq said the district prosecutor had received threats from the Taliban, angry about the number of insurgents he had convicted and sentenced to prison.

No one has taken responsibility for the killing, but Taliban have stepped up their targeted assassinations in recent months, attacking government and security officials they accuse of being traitors.

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