In the latest twist in the war of attrition between the United States and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program, the Iranian authorities have announced the arrest of Abdolmalek Rigi, leader of the Sunni insurgent group said to be responsible for a major attack in October 2009 in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province.
More than 40 people were killed, including 15 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, in the attack. Jundallah, based in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, is said to have close ties with al Qaeda, and operates inside Shi’a-majority Iran.
Iran’s Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi has promptly accused the American CIA and the Israeli intelligence service Mossad of having links with Jundallah. According to Moslehi, Rigi was at an American military base in Afghanistan 24 hours before his arrest and the United States ‘utilized an Afghan passport’ for him.
Details of the circumstances surrounding Rigi’s capture are unclear. First, Iran’s state television network Press TV reported that he was apprehended on a flight from Dubai to the Central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan. The authorities in Dubai are furious at the recent assassination of a leading Hamas figure on their soil – assassination for which the Israeli secret service is widely suspected. However, al Jazeera English, quoting other Iranian sources, said the arrest took place on a flight to an Arab country, indicating Dubai.
And the Iranian news agency quoted a politician as saying, “Rigi was arrested in Persian Gulf waters while he was traveling on a plane via Pakistan to an Arab country.” It seems the aircraft was forced to land in Iranian territory, where it was searched and he was arrested.
Rigi had been on the Iranian secret service’s watch list for years. Iran accuses Jundallah of carrying out mass murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, acts of sabotage and bombings. The group has targeted civilians and government officials, as well as the Iranian security forces. Reporting on Rigi’s capture, Press TV referred to the American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who revealed in a New Yorker magazine article in July 2008 that US Congressional leaders had secretly agreed to former President George W. Bush’s request for $400 million, which gave the United States a free hand in arming and funding terrorist groups such as Jundallah.
A year before, the ABC network had reported the group had been ‘secretly encouraged and advised by American officials’ to destabilize the Iranian government.