TEHRAN: Four Iranian border guards were killed on Wednesday in a clash with armed rebels near the Pakistani border, Iranian media reported.

The fighting occurred in the Rask region in the southwestern Sistan-Balochistan province, Iranian media said without giving further details.

Last month, state television reported the death of a police officer and five “terrorists”, said to be members of the Jaish al-Adl group, in the nearby Khash region.

Jaish al-Adl is thought to be behind a number of attacks in Sistan-Balochistan in recent years, and Tehran accuses it of ties to Pakistan-based Al Qaeda cells.

Ninety per cent of Iran’s population is Shia, but the country has significant Sunni populations in its restive border regions, notably Kurdistan in the northeast, and Sistan-Balochistan and Khuzistan in the southwest.

There has been a recent uptick in violence in Iranian Kurdistan, with local media reporting the death of 33 rebels and six members of security forces since mid-June.