Advocacy group says Iran, Taliban fight on border with Afghanistan as sound of gunfire heard


Dubai (AP) — The Taliban and Iran reportedly exchanged gunfire Saturday on the Islamic Republic’s border with Afghanistan, an advocacy group said, as tensions rise over water rights between the two nations.

Neither Iranian state media nor Taliban-controlled media in Afghanistan acknowledged the fighting on the border of Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province and the Afghan province of Nimroz.

The advocacy group HalVash, which reports on issues in the predominately Sunni province of Sistan and Baluchestan, quoted residents in the area describing the fighting as starting Saturday morning. The group put the fighting near the Kang district of Nimroz, saying some people in the area had fled the violence.

Videos posted online, purportedly from the area, included the crackle of machine gun fire in the distance. HalVash later posted an image of what appeared to be the remains of a mortar round, saying that “heavy weapons and mortars are being used.”

The apparent clash comes as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi earlier this month warned the Taliban not to violate Iran’s water rights to the Helmand River. Raisi’s remarks represented some of the strongest yet over the long-running concerns about water in Iran.

Drought has been a problem in Iran for some 30 years, but has worsened over the past decade, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. The Iran Meteorological Organization says that an estimated 97% of the country now faces some level of drought.

Earlier on Saturday, the Taliban’s Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi met with an Iranian envoy to Afghanistan to discuss the Helmand River water rights, according to tweets from Afghan Foreign Ministry official Zia Ahmad. Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency acknowledged the meeting, saying “that issues between the two countries will be better resolved through dialogue.”

But tensions have otherwise been rising. Another video posted online in recent days purportedly showed a standoff with Iranian forces and the Taliban as Iranian construction workers tried to reinforce the border between the two countries.

In recent days, pro-Taliban accounts online also have been sharing a video with a song calling on the acting defense minister to stand up to Iran

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