Iran hangs top rebel

2010-06-20 13:56

Tehran - Abdolmalek Rigi, head of the Sunni rebel group Jundallah who waged a deadly insurgency in Iran's southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, was hanged early on Sunday, state news agency IRNA reported.

"After the decision of the Tehran revolutionary tribunal, Abdolmalek Rigi was hanged on Sunday morning in Evin prison," IRNA said.

It quoted a court statement as saying: "The head of the armed counter-revolutionary group in the east of the country ... was responsible for armed robbery, assassination attempts, armed attacks on the army and police and on ordinary people, and murder."

Rigi was captured in February while on a flight from Dubai to Kyrgystan. His hanging on Sunday comes less than a month after his brother Abdolhamid was hanged on charges of "terrorism".

Deadly insurgency

Rigi led the shadowy Sunni militant group called Jundallah (Soldiers of God) that had waged a deadly insurgency in southeastern Iran killing civilians as well as military officials.

Iran says the group was backed by the United States.

IRNA, quoting the court statement, said Rigi's group was "responsible for the killing of 154 members of security forces and other innocent people and wounding of 320 people since 2003".

It said Jundallah was "linked to members of foreign intelligence services, including members from US and Zionist regime's intelligence services under the cover of Nato".

It was also linked to intelligence services of some Arab countries and counter-revolutionary group People's Mujahedeen, the statement said.

Confessed

Rigi himself was charged with forming the "terrorist group Jundallah which was fighting the Islamic republic".

"He collaborated and ordered 15 armed abductions, confessed to three murders, and ordered the murders of tens of citizens, police and military personnel through bombings and armed actions," the statement added.

IRNA said he had been sentenced to be hanged in front of the relatives of some of the victims of his attacks, but the report did not specify whether he was actually executed in their presence.

Rigi's arrest was reportedly a spectacular operation, with Iranian warplanes forcing the flight carrying the militant from Dubai to Kyrgystan to land in Iran.

Soon after his arrest, the Jundallah group claimed it had appointed a new leader Muhammad Dhahir Baluch, the SITE monitoring agency reported.

Stronger movement

According to SITE Jundallah said in its website posting: "Let the (Iranian) regime know that it will face a movement that is stronger and much more solid than ever before and one whose existence it has not been aware of.

"It will see what our believing heroes among our Baluch children can do to the occupiers, the aggressors and the unjust. The falsehood of the senior leaders of the regime will soon be exposed."

Jundallah says it is fighting Tehran's Shi'ite rule to secure rights for Sunni Baluchis who form a significant population in Sistan-Baluchestan.

A few days after Rigi's arrest Iranian state media alleged that the United States had offered to provide the militant aid to battle the Islamic regime.

"They (Americans) said they would co-operate with us and will give me military equipment," Rigi said in a taped statement broadcast on Iran's state-run English-language Press TV.

Destabilising govt

Tehran has long accused the group of being trained and equipped by American and British intelligence services as well as the Pakistanis in a bid to destabilise the government. Washington denies the charges.

Rigi's brother Abdolhamid was hanged in Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchestan, on May 24 in front of the families of the victims, state media had reported.

Abdolhamid was convicted of "Moharebeh" (armed opposition to the state) and being "corrupt on earth by membership in a terrorist group."

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