An intelligence officer in the Iranian army's ideological arm has been killed in clashes in the southeast of the country, raising the death toll to 20 people killed.

It was not immediately clear whether the clashes were connected to the wave of unrest since the death of Mahsa Amini
It was not immediately clear whether the clashes were connected to the wave of unrest since the death of Mahsa Amini (AP Archive)

Iran's Revolutionary Guards has announced that another of its senior officers was killed during clashes in the southeast of the country.

Colonel Hamid Reza Hashemi, an intelligence officer in the Iranian army's ideological arm, "succumbed to injuries he sustained during clashes with the terrorists," a Guards statement said on Saturday.

The death brings to 20 the number of people killed in an exchange of fire on Friday near a police station in the city of Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchestan province.

READ MORE: Iran colonel among 19 dead in Sistan-Baluchistan attack

State media reported that security forces had returned fire when the police station in the came under attack by gunmen.

"A number of police members, as well as passers-by, have been injured in the exchange of fire," the state broadcaster said.

The state broadcaster had said Colonel Ali Mousavi, a provincial intelligence officer in the Guards, was also among the dead.

The regional governor of Sistan-Baluchestan, Hossein Khiabani, had told state TV that a total of 20 people were also injured in the clashes.

Flashpoint for clashes

Poverty-stricken Sistan-Baluchestan, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan, is a flashpoint for clashes with drug smuggling gangs, as well as rebels from the Baluchi minority and extremist groups.

It was not immediately clear whether the clashes were connected to the wave of deadly unrest that has swept Iran since the death of Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in morality police custody in mid-September.

READ MORE: Foreigners detained in Iran as protests continue over Amini's death

Iran, which has blamed "foreign enemies" for women-led protests said on Friday it had arrested nine European nationals for their role in the unrest.

The detention of citizens of Germany, Poland, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and other countries is likely to raise tensions between Iran and Western countries.

Tehran has responded to international condemnation of the case by lashing out at its critics, accusing the United States of exploiting the unrest to try to destabilise Iran.

Source: AFP