Four Guards killed in clashes with 'bandits' in Iran
Four members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards were killed during a clash with "bandits" in the country's southeast border region, the official IRNA news agency said on Saturday.
The four were killed on Friday evening "during a clash with bandits in the Khash region in Sistan-Baluchistan" province, IRNA said, citing a Guards statement, without identifying either the "bandits" or the nature of the clash.
Sistan-Balochistan straddles the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, and is home to a large, mainly Sunni Muslim ethnic Baluch community in a country where most of the population is Shia.
The area has long been a flashpoint for cross-border attacks by separatists and Sunni extremists, and clashes between security forces and armed groups are common.
In April, the Guards announced they had killed three "terrorists" during an operation in the province.
In February, Iranian media said two people including a police officer were killed in violence in the area linked to cross-border fuel smuggling.
The statement on Saturday came as the Islamic Republic faced criticism over its crackdown on protests in the Khuzestan province.
Khuzestan is Iran's main oil-producing region and one of its wealthiest.
But the southwestern province is also home to a large Arab minority, and its people regularly complain of being marginalised by the authorities.
Bachelet's office said Khuzestan used to be Iran's main and most reliable source of water, but alleged mismanagement coupled with droughts had drained the province.
Protests erupted on July 15 in several cities across the province. In response, state security forces appear to have reacted with disproportionate force against unarmed, peaceful protesters
Bachelet warned that the "catastrophic" situation had been building up for many years and that "shooting and arresting people will simply add to the anger and desperation".
"I am extremely concerned about the deaths and injuries that have occurred over the past week, as well as the widespread arrests and detention," Bachelet said in a statement.
"The impact of the devastating water crisis on life, health and prosperity of the people of Khuzestan should be the focus of the government's attention, not the protests carried out by people driven to desperation by years of neglect."
At least four people, including one minor, have been killed, and several others injured, while three are unconfirmed reports of a higher number of deaths, said the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
State media has reported that one police officer has been killed.