Eight Iranian soldiers were taken hostage and a ninth killed in clashes with bandits and drug smugglers in Iran's volatile eastern region, state radio said Monday.
It said some 40 armed bandits in the Esfarayen region near the Afghanistan border were holding the hostages, adding that the army had deployed a sizable force to get them freed.
The unprecedented hostage-taking comes as the army has begun deploying a mobile battalion in its eastern areas to combat a wave of drug smugglers coming from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Iran regularly blames the Taliban militia which controls most of Afghanistan for the rise of drug trafficking in the region.
Iran is a major transshipment point for drugs headed to markets in the Gulf, central Asia and Europe -- TEHRAN (AFP)
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