updated 3/17/2006 5:07:24 AM ET 2006-03-17T10:07:24

Rebels posing as security forces have killed 21 people on a highway in southeastern Iran, Iran’s national police chief said Friday.

Gen. Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghaddam accused U.S. and British intelligence services of encouraging Iranian rebels to attack people, the official Iranian news agency reported.

Rebels posing as policemen and soldiers stopped people and killed them on a road in Sistan-Baluchestan province, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan, the agency quoted Moghaddam as saying.

“Twenty one people have been martyred and seven injured,” Moghaddam said.

There are no well-known opposition groups operating in southeastern Iran, but the region is known for gangs of drug traffickers who have frequently clashed with security forces and occasionally kidnapped people.

Moghaddam said the police had information indicating that U.S. and British intelligence agents had met representatives of rebels, but he gave no details.

“It appears that a plan to create instability and religious hatred, similar to the bombing of the Shiite shrine in Sammara (in Iraq), is being pursued here,” the news agency quoted Moghaddam as saying.

Moghaddam said police were searching for the rebels, who may have fled to Afghanistan.

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