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Pakistan has banned the activities of an Iran-backed Shiite militant group allegedly involved in recruiting and sending young Pakistanis to fight in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

An Interior Ministry directive, seen Thursday by VOA, identified the proscribed outfit as the Zaynabiyoun Brigade, saying it “is engaged in certain activities which are prejudicial to the peace and security” of Pakistan. It did not elaborate.

A ministry official, who spoke to VOA anonymously because he was not authorized to interact publicly with the media, confirmed the authenticity of the March 29 order and placement of the Zaynabiyoun Brigade on a government list of 79 proscribed organizations.

The United States designated the Zaynabiyoun Brigade as a terrorist organization in 2019, saying it is composed of Pakistani nationals and provides “materiel support” to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC.

The group has reportedly been mobilizing fighters in Pakistan and among Pakistani refugees in Iran, with the IRGC training them for operations in the Syrian civil war, which erupted in 2011.

In January this year, the counterterrorism department in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province reported that it had arrested a suspected member of the Zaynabiyoun Brigade, saying the man had played a role in an assassination attempt on a prominent cleric.

The 2019 attack on Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani in the provincial capital of Karachi killed two of his security guards and wounded a fellow religious scholar but the cleric narrowly escaped, unhurt.

Pakistan officials say Pakistani nationals trained to fight in Syria have been returning home and pose a security threat in a country with a history of deadly rivalry between extremists from the majority Sunni Muslim population and the minority Shiite community.

The sectarian violence has killed thousands of people over the years but lately has subsided.

Islamabad’s listing of the Tehran-backed militant group comes amid border tensions stemming from mutual allegations of terrorism.

In early January, Iranian security forces carried out drone and missile strikes inside Pakistan against what they said were sanctuaries for anti-Iran militants. Pakistani forces retaliated with similar strikes inside Iran against what they said were bases of fugitive insurgents.

Separately on Thursday, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari and his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, held a telephone conversation. Zardari’s office said in a statement that the leaders discussed, among other issues, security cooperation.

Zardari “underlined the need to enhance the exchange of information to overcome the security challenges being faced by the two countries,” the statement said.

The countries share a 900-kilometer border and routinely accuse each other of supporting or not doing enough to stop cross-border militant infiltration.

Fatemiyoun Division

The IRGC is also believed to have formed a militia comprising nationals from neighboring Afghanistan and hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees in Iran. The militia, called the Fatemiyoun Division, has been designated as a terrorist group by Washington.

“The Fatemiyoun Division … preys on the millions of undocumented Afghan migrants and refugees in Iran, coercing them to fight in Syria under threat of arrest or deportation,” the U.S. Treasury Department said while announcing the group’s designation along with the Zaynabiyoun Brigade in 2019.

“Treasury’s targeting of Iran-backed militias and other foreign proxies is part of our ongoing pressure campaign to shut down the illicit networks the [Iranian] regime uses to export terrorism and unrest across the globe,” the U.S. statement said.