Jul 21, 2:33 PM EDT

Iranian news agency says 40 arrested in connection with underground tunnel found in the country's far east



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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iranian authorities arrested 40 suspects linked to the discovery of an underground tunnel in the country's far east, near the Pakistani border, the official IRNA news agency reported on Thursday.

The report said those arrested belong to a "terrorist group" but did not identify the group. It quoted Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli as saying the subterranean tunnel discovered two nights ago was meant for "carrying out attacks and militant activities."

Earlier in July, four Iranian border guards were killed by gunmen near the Pakistani border. Security forces have also occasionally clashed with militants groups in the area believed to be affiliated with al-Qaida and which have claimed responsibility for several attacks in the past years.

Most of the violence is focused in Iran's eastern Sistan-Baluchistan province, which borders Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province.

Separately, the semi-official Tasnim news agency close to the powerful Revolutionary Guard forces, said police forces and the intelligence service jointly discovered the secret tunnel close to major military and security headquarters in the city of Khash.

The report added that a raid at a house linked to the tunnel, which is 30 meters (yards) long, uncovered a booby-trap device, weapons and ammunition

Later in the day, IRNA also reported that Revolutionary Guard forces captured a group of four infiltrators who entered the country illegally from across the border with Turkey on Thursday morning.

The report quoted Guard commander Alireza Madani as saying that "four terrorists ... were intercepted" in the city of Salmas in Iran's western Azerbaijan province. There were no details on what the four were suspected of.

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