Feb 23 (Reuters) – Iran captured the leader of Sunni Muslim rebel group Jundollah, Abdolmalek Rigi, on Tuesday, Iranian media reported.
The Sunni rebel group Jundollah (God’s soldiers) claimed responsibility for a bomb attack, the deadliest in Iran since the 1980s, that killed more than 40 Iranians last October.
Jundollah are ethnic Baluch Sunni insurgents and have been blamed for previous attacks in the region.
Here are some key details about the group:
* Iran, which is predominantly Shi’ite, has linked Jundollah to the Sunni Islamist al Qaeda network. It also accuses the United States of backing Jundollah in order to create instability in the country. Washington denies the charge.
* Jundollah itself says it is fighting for the rights of the Islamic Republic’s minority Sunnis. Iran reject allegations by Western rights groups that it discriminates against ethnic and religious minorities.
* Jundollah chief Abdolmalek Rigi, 27, said in a 2007 interview quoted by CTC Sentinel that his group was fighting for the rights of the Baluch people facing what he called “genocide” in Iran, but denied it harboured any separatist or radical sectarian agenda.
* Jundollah has evolved through shifting alliances with various parties, including the Taliban and Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service, who saw the group as a tool against Iran, according to Lahore-based Pakistani analyst Ahmed Rashid.
* Jundollah, which also calls itself the Iranian People’s Resistance Movement, was founded in 2002 and launched its armed campaign in 2005.
* Since early 2005 the group has sought to expand operations in Iran’s south-eastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan. It has carried out kidnappings and, more recently, suicide attacks.
* The group probably numbers fewer than 100 militants armed with explosives and small arms in Sistan-Baluchestan which borders both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
* Leader Rigi vowed to fight the Shi’ite government in Iran unless economic conditions improve in the province.
* In June 2005, Jundollah kidnapped Revolutionary Guard officer Shahab Mansuri and sent video of him to al-Arabiya. He was killed on July 13 and Iran blamed Jundollah.
* On Dec. 14, 2005, an assassination attempt was made on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while on a visit to Sistan-Baluchestan. This attack was also blamed on Jundollah.
* In 2007, Jundollah claimed responsibility for several attacks. On Feb. 14, 11 members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards were killed in an attack on a bus in the city of Zahedan.
* In Dec. 2008 there was a suicide attack in Saravan on a security forces headquarters. This was the first incidence of a suicide attack in Iran and was carried out by Abdul-Ghafoor Rigi, a brother of the group’s leader.
* On May 28, 2009 , a suicide bomber killed 25 people and wounded more than 120 in an attack on a mosque in Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchestan. Jundollah claimed the attack.
* An Oct. 18, 2009 bombing by the group killed over 40 people. Fifteen Revolutionary Guards members were among those killed, including the deputy head of ground forces in the deadliest attack in Iran since the 1980s.
* On May 30 three men were hanged in public for involvement in the Zahedan bombing. Two more were hanged on June 2. Iran executed 15 more men accused of membership of Jundollah in July.
* In early November Iran executed Jundollah member Abdolhamid Rigi. Abdolmalek has a brother, also called Abdolhamid, who was arrested in 2009 but whose execution was postponed.
Sources: Reuters/Janes World Insurgency and Terrorism

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