Top Sunni rebel on Iran death row says US ordered attacks

(DAWN.COM)   ZAHEDAN: A top Sunni rebel who is awaiting execution in Iran said on Tuesday that his militant group received orders from the United States to launch terror attacks in the Islamic republic.

Abdolhamid Rigi, brother of shadowy Jundallah (Soldiers of God) group leader Abdolmalek Rigi, told reporters his brother was an Al-Qaeda point man in Iran six years ago but that later the group broke off ties with him.

‘The United States created and supported Jundallah and we received orders from them,’ Rigi said in Iran’s restive southeastern city of Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchestan province bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan.

‘They (US officials) told us whom to shoot and whom not to. All orders came from them. They told us that they would provide us with everything we need like money and equipment.’

Wearing normal clothing, and not a prison uniform, Rigi addressed reporters in a government building in Zahedan, amid relatively light security.

Iran has accused Jundallah of launching several attacks inside the country, mainly in Sistan-Baluchestan.

The group also claimed a May 28 bomb attack on the Shia Amir al-Momenin mosque in Zahedan in which more than 20 people were killed and 50 wounded.

That attack came just weeks before Iran’s June 12 presidential election which returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.

Iran has in the past blamed US and British agents based in neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan for launching attacks on border provinces with significant ethnic minority populations.

The day after the mosque bombing, officials accused the United States of ‘hiring’ those behind the attack, linking it to the presidential election. Washington rejected the accusation.

‘We condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms,’ State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said. We do not sponsor any form of terrorism in Iran.’

Before Tuesday’s news conference began, reporters saw a group of people who reportedly had relatives killed in attacks launched by Jundallah.

An AFP correspondent said that as Rigi sat down to address reporters, some of the victims’ relatives called out, denouncing him as a murderer.

Video footage of the aftermath of attacks allegedly launched by Jundallah was also shown at the news conference.

The images included gory executions of several handcuffed and blindfolded people, scenes which provincial officials told reporters had been filmed by Rigi himself.

The officials said some of those shown being killed, who were not identified, had been captured by Jundullah in 2006 and later executed.

Sistan-Baluchestan has a large ethnic Sunni Baluch minority, and also lies on a major narcotics-smuggling route from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Iranian officials have said Abdolhamid will be executed for his role in several attacks in the country. -AFP

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