Afghans condemn Iranian police after refugees killed in car blaze

by Reuters
Saturday, 6 June 2020 14:18 GMT

(Adds Iranian official's comments)

KABUL, June 6 (Reuters) - Afghans have taken to social media to denounce Iranian police after a video of a car carrying refugees being set ablaze in Iran went viral, arousing new anger weeks after Afghan officials accused Iranian border guards of drowning migrants.

Afghanistan's foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday three Afghans were killed and four injured in Iran's central Yazd province after their vehicle was shot at by Iranian police, starting the fire.

Video footage posted on social media showed a boy escaping from the blazing car with burns on parts of his body begging for water. The ministry said the video was genuine and Afghans in Iran were trying to identify the victims.

The boy's plea of "give me some water, I am burning" was widely circulated on social media and taken up by rights group demanding justice.

"Iran has no right to kill Afghan refugees, they can seal their borders, expel all Afghans but not kill them," Ali Noori, a lawyer and rights activist, said on Facebook.

Iranian embassy officials in the Afghan capital Kabul were not immediately available for comment, but a local official in Iran earlier denied police were responsible for the blaze.

Police fired on the vehicle, suspected of carrying drugs and undocumented migrants, after it crashed through a checkpoint, Ahmad Tarahomi, deputy Yazd governor, told state media.

After its tyres were hit, the vehicle continued to drive away on its wheel rims, igniting sparks which started the fire, Tarahomi said.

Afghans have for decades sought refuge in Iran from war and poverty in their homeland.

Iran says about 2.5 million Afghan migrants, both legal and undocumented, live there. Facing its own economic problems worsened by international sanctions, Iran has at times tried to send Afghans home.

Last month, Afghan officials said Iranian border guards killed 45 Afghan migrant workers by forcing them at gunpoint into a mountain river on the border.

At the time, Iranian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the incident had taken place on Afghan soil.

(Reporting by Orooj Hakimi and Rupam Jain; additional reporting by Dubai newsroom; editing by Robert Birsel and James Drummond)

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