Twenty members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard were killed in a suicide attack in the southeast of the country.

The state-run IRNA news agency, citing what it described as an “informed source”, reported the attack on the security forces in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan province on Wednesday.

The province, which lies on a major opium trafficking route, has seen occasional clashes between Iranian forces and Baluch separatists, as well as drug traffickers.

The attack happened on the road between the cities of Zahedan and Khash, a volatile area near the Pakistan border where armed groups and drug smugglers frequently operate.

Ten members of the Guard were also wounded in the suicide car-bomb attack, which targeted a bus transporting the security force, Iran’s Fars news reported.

The Jaish al-Adl armed group claimed responsibility for the attack, according to Fars.

The attack came on the day of a US-led conference in Warsaw that included discussions on what the United States describes as Iran’s “malign influence” across the wider Middle East.

The Guard is a major economic and military power in Iran, answerable only to the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

While Iran has been enmeshed in the wars engulfing Syria and neighbouring Iraq, it largely has avoided the bloodshed plaguing the region.

In 2009, more than 40 people, including six Guard commanders, were killed in a suicide attack in Sistan and Baluchistan province.

Most recently, an attack on a military parade in September 2018 in Iran’s oil-rich southwest killed more than 20 and wounded about 60.

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