Iran Executes Insurgent Leader, Accused of Ties With American Intelligence
Jundullah (“soldiers of Allah”) leader Abdolmalek Rigi was hanged at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, after being convicted by the Islamic Revolution Court of being a mohareb, or “enemy of Allah.”
He was also accused of offenses included murder, terror activities, armed robbery, and seeking financial assistance and intelligence information from foreigners, according to a court statement.
It said Jundullah was “responsible for the killing of 154 members of security forces and other innocent people and wounding of 320 people since 2003.”
Rigi’s group was linked to U.S. and Israeli foreign intelligence services, as well as to another anti-Tehran insurgent group, the Mujahedeen-e- Khalq, the statement said.
Jundullah claims to represent the interests of Balochs (Baluchs) – a mostly Sunni minority in southeastern Iran accounting for around two million of Iran’s 70 million predominantly Shi’ite population.
The Balochistan region runs across southeast Iran, southern Afghanistan and south-western Pakistan’s Balochistan province, and Iran alleges that Jundullah operates from Pakistani soil
Among its deadly attacks, a suicide bombing last October killed more than 40 people, including several senior Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officers, in Sistan-Balochistan, a province sharing borders with both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Jundullah also killed 12 Iranian policemen in an ambush early last year, and months later bombed a large Shi’ite mosque in the provincial capital, Zahidan, killing 25 people.
After the group struck, Iranian officials invariably blamed and the U.S. and, sometimes, Britain, Israel and other countries deemed hostile to Iran.
When the IRGC was targeted last fall U.S. denied a flurry of allegations from Tehran about American backing for Jundullah. Pakistan was also accused of allowing the terrorists to operate from its soil.
The government vowed to hit back at the perpetrators. The retaliation, when it came four months later, occurred in circumstances that remain murky: A Kyrgyz plane on a flight from Dubai to Bishkek was forced to land in Bandar Abbas, a city in eastern Iran. Iranian officials said Rigi was removed from the plane and placed under arrest.
Iranian Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi told Iranian media security forces had tracked down Rigi. He had been detained onboard the plane which was then forced to land on Iranian soil.
Kyrgyzstan confirmed – and formally protested against – the forced grounding of its plane, but denied that any foreign national had been removed from the flight.
Whatever the case, the capture of a leader of a group that had caused havoc in southeastern Iran for seven years was a significant success for Iran.
Iranian media were soon publishing supposed confessions by the detainee, who claimed CIA officials had met with him and promised aid and weapons and a base in Afghanistan near the border with Iran. Rigi reportedly said he was flying to Bishkek for a meeting with a “high-ranking person” at the U.S. military base at Manas. A Pentagon spokesman denied allegations that Rigi had links with U.S. officials.
Moslehi charged that Rigi had also met with European intelligence agency representatives and NATO officials in Afghanistan, and had revealed that his group received support from British and Israeli intelligence.
‘Iran is so powerful’
With Rigi’s hanging on Sunday, Iranian judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani said the execution sent a message to other terrorists that the law will be enforced against them even if they enjoy Western support.
The national broadcaster IRIB said he warned those who “mistakenly think they are standing against the Iranian nation and the Islamic establishment” to return to the right path, or face Rigi’s fate.
During his trial, Rigi reportedly admitted guilt, asked for forgiveness and appealed for clemency. Larijani rejected the appeal and ordered the execution to proceed.
Lawmakers also used the occasion to point fingers at the U.S.
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, who heads the parliamentary national security and foreign policy commission, said Rigi’s capture and hanging was a symbol of the failure of the policies of the “global arrogance” against Iran.
The U.S., Britain and Pakistan should give up their terrorism against Iran, he said.
Lawmaker Hassan Ghafurifard told IRNA Rigi’s confessions were a blow to the U.S., which had spared no effort since the early days of the Islamic revolution to put obstacles in its way.
“The U.S. should understand that Iran is so powerful and such futile attempts to support terrorist groups cannot harm it,” he said.
Another lawmaker, Parviz Sorouri, said Tehran planned to file lawsuits against the U.S. and British governments, based on Rigi’s confessions, the ILNA news agency reported.
Iran earlier captured Rigi’s brother, Abdolhamid, who was described as number two in the group. He was hanged last month. Moslehi, the intelligence minister, predicted the group was on the verge of collapse.
Just days after Abdolmalek Rigi’s capture, Jundullah named Mohammed Dhahir Baluch as its new head.
“The movement is more than its leader,” it said in a statement posted on the Internet. “With firm determination and strong will it will continue on the path of jihad till the last drop of blood.”
The U.S. government has not designated Jundullah as a foreign terrorist organization, although it does list Mujahedeen-e- Khalq, another Iranian anti-regime group.