US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called on the Afghan government to open a "full investigation" into reports that said Afghan migrants were "abused, tortured and drowned" by Iranian border guards to prevent their illegal entry into the country, a media report said.
Addressing the media in Washington, Pompeo on Thursday said he was "appalled" by the reports, adding that this happened when Afghans "dared to cross the border simply in search of food and work", TOLO News reported.
Iran Afghans trying to enter beaten
Pompeo's comments came a day after the government in Kabul announced that a joint Afghanistan-Iran team would probe the incident.
According to Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry, initial assessments suggested that at least 70 Afghans who were trying to enter Iran from bordering Herat province were beaten and pushed into the Harirud river. The Harirud river basin is shared by Afghanistan, Iran and Turkmenistan. An Afghan official on Wednesday said that so far 16 of the Afghan nationals have been rescued, 18 to 20 were missing, and 16 bodies have been found.
Protests outside Afghan embassy in Kabul
Also on Thursday, a number of people staged a protest outside Iran's embassy in Kabul, calling for the punishment of the perpetrators while criticizing Afghan political leaders for their "silence". A similar rally was held in the city of Herat in the west of Afghanistan, a province that shares a border with Iran.
The development comes after Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said earlier this week: "The incident affecting a number of Afghanistan's citizens has taken place on that country's soil and the Islamic Republic of Iran's border guards have denied any involvement in this regard.
"Taking into account the significance of the issue and in order to obtain accurate information about how the incident took place on the Afghan soil, we have been probing the issue in cooperation with that country's officials."