Water Rights Dispute Sparks Deadly Exchange Between Iran and Taliban

In an escalating border dispute over water rights, gunfire exchange led to the death of two Iranian border guards and one Taliban combatant near a border post between Iran and Afghanistan.

The outbreak of violence occurred today in Nimroz province, as per a statement from Abdul Nafi Takor, the Afghan interior ministry spokesperson, “Iranian border forces initiated fire towards Afghanistan, prompting immediate counter-reaction. The situation is under control now. The Islamic Emirate is not inclined towards conflict with its neighboring countries.”

The spokesperson did not identify the victims and reported one casualty on both sides along with several injuries. Nevertheless, the Iranian official news agency IRNA contradicted this claim, stating that two Iranian border guards had been killed and two Iranian civilians injured. The Tehran Times, an English-language semi-official newspaper, reported the death toll of Iranian border guards as three.

Amid this escalating situation, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi issued a stern warning to the Taliban not to violate a 1973 treaty by curtailing the flow of water from the Helmand River to Iran’s eastern territories. The Taliban rulers of Afghanistan deny the allegations.

According to Enayatullah Khowarazmi, the Taliban Ministry of Defence spokesperson, “Regrettably, there was another outbreak of gunfire by Iranian soldiers in the border areas of Kong district of Nimroz province leading to a conflict.” Khowarazmi emphasized Afghanistan’s preference for dialogue and negotiation as the reasonable path for conflict resolution.

On the contrary, Iran accused the Taliban forces of initiating the gunfire. Iran’s deputy police chief, Qasem Rezaei, as quoted by IRNA, said, “Taliban forces started shooting at the Sasoli checkpoint without adhering to international laws and good neighborliness, warranting a definitive response.”

Following the conflict, Iranian authorities shut down the Milak-Zaranj border post, a significant commercial crossing, until further notice, as reported by IRNA. The agency further quoted the Iranian border guards stating that they had inflicted “casualties and serious damage” using “their superior heavy fire.”

This news comes amid an ever-worsening drought situation in Iran, a problem that has persisted for about 30 years and intensified over the last decade according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). With tensions mounting, the border dispute represents another challenge in the precarious relations between the two nations.

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The Filthy American
The Filthy American
Formerly a resident of Iraqi Kurdistan during the Iraq war, now in the American south. Writing about conflicts, culture, geopolitics and anything I think a reader will find worth reading.