Jundallah (Iran)

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Jundallah (Soldiers of God)
جندالله
Participant in Sistan and Baluchestan insurgency
Jondollah Logo.png
Logo of Jundallah
Active 2003–present[citation needed]
Ideology Salafi jihadism
anti-Islamic Republic of Iran
Baloch nationalism
Leaders

Abdolmalek Rigi Executed

Muhammad Dhahir Baluch
Headquarters Balochistan, Iran
Area of operations Sistan and Baluchestan Province, Iran
Size 700[1][2]–2,000[3]
Became Jaish ul-Adl[4]
Harakat Ansar Iran[5]
Allies Allegedly (see below):
 al-Qaeda
 Pakistan
 Saudi Arabia
Opponents  Iran
Battles and wars 2007 Zahedan bombings
2009 Zahedan bombing
2009 Pishin bombing
2010 Zahedan bombings
2010 Chabahar suicide bombing

Jundallah (جندالله, lit. "Soldiers of God"), also known as People's Resistance Movement of Iran (PRMI),[6] is a Sunni militant organization based in Sistan and Baluchestan, a southeastern region of Iran, that claims to be fighting for "equal rights of Sunni Muslims in Iran".[1][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14]

It was founded by Abdolmalek Rigi, who was captured and executed in Iran in 2010.[8] It is believed to have between 700[1] to 2,000 fighters[3] and, as of December 2014, is said to be responsible for killing 154 and injuring 320 Iranian citizens since 2003,[15] while Jundullah commanders claim the group has killed up to 400 Iranian soldiers.[16]

The group has been designated a terrorist organization by Iran, New Zealand[17] and the United States[18][19] and it has been linked to, and taken credit for numerous acts of terror, kidnapping and the smuggling of narcotics. According to many sources, the group is linked to al-Qaeda.[20][21][22]

Background

Jundallah is thought to have begun in 2003 and it is known for attacks against high-profile Iranian targets, both military and civilian. Its origin and structure remain unclear.[23] It has been suggested that it might be an offshoot of Baluchi Autonomist Movement, which was created and supported by Saddam Hussein along with other militant groups like Mujahideen-e Khalq, to wage a proxy war on Iran during the Iran-Iraq war.[24] There appears to be at least another militant organization with the name of Jundallah operating independently in Pakistan.[23]

Iran accuses the United States[25] and other foreign elements of backing Jundallah, possibly from Pakistani territory with Islamabad's support, despite Pakistan's alleged history of cooperation with Iran to suppress trans-border militants, whereas Jundallah denies any connections to al-Qaeda or the Taliban, as well as foreign governments such as the United States and Great Britain. The United States also denies any support or involvement with this group.

In an October 17, 2008 interview aired on Al-Arabiya TV, its leader Abdolmalek Rigi stated the group had given "over 2,000 men" military, political and ideological training but that the number of its members "in the mountains does not exceed 200."[26][27][28] It has also been alleged that Jundallah is involved in smuggling Iranian diesel fuel to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the price of which is more than five times cheaper than the diesel fuel in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The diesel fuel is then bartered with opium, which is smuggled into Iran from Afghanistan and Pakistan to be sold in Iran.[29]

Terrorist designation

Though the United States State Department under Hillary Clinton considered designating Jundullah as a terrorist organization in 2009,[30] it wasn't until November 3, 2010, that it designated Jundallah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, noting that Jundallah "has engaged in numerous attacks resulting in the death and maiming of scores of Iranian civilians and government officials. Jundallah uses a variety of terrorist tactics, including suicide bombings, ambushes, kidnappings and targeted assassinations."[31] Iran hailed the decision.[32]

Views and goals

Jundullah have been referred to as separatists by various media,[33][34][35][36][37] and Iranian leaders have stated that Jundullah is proxy group used by the enemies of Iran to destabilise the Islamic Republic.[9] The group's (now dead) leader Abdolmalek Rigi, however, always denied the organization had any separatist agenda,[7][10][11][12] or foreign links, claiming that they "merely fight for equal rights for Sunni Muslims" in predominantly Shi'a Iran.[7][8][9]

In an interview with Rooz (an Iranian online newspaper), Rigi declared himself an Iranian and stating Iran was his home, and that he merely aimed at improving the lives of Sunni Baluchis in a democratic Iran.[12] Dan Rather's US cable channel HDnet's television news magazine Dan Rather Reports, also interviewed Rigi and showed a video of Rigi personally cutting off his brother in-law Shahab Mansouri's head. In the same interview, Rigi described himself as "an Iranian" and denied that his goal is to form a separate Baluch state. He claimed that his goal is to "improve conditions for ethnic Baluchis", and that his group is "fighting exclusively for the rights of Sunni Muslims in Iran".[14][38]

In an October 17, 2008 interview aired on Al-Arabiya TV, Abdolmalek stated, "the only thing we ask of the Iranian government is to be citizens. We want to have the same rights as the Iranian Shiite people. That's it." He described his group as an Islamic awakening movement but denied any ties with Al Qaeda or the Taliban. He also told the interviewer that despite the fact that "many of us have been martyred ... we are prepared to reach an understanding with the Iranian government, Insha Allah."[26]

International sponsorship

United States and Israel

During 2007-2008, there were allegations that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was supporting Jundallah, but these claims were debunked by a subsequent investigation showing that the CIA "had barred even the most incidental contact with Jundallah." The rumors originated in an Israeli Mossad "false flag" operation; Mossad agents posing as CIA officers met with and recruited members of Jundullah in cities such as London to carry out attacks against Iran. President George W. Bush "went absolutely ballistic" when he learned of Israel's actions, but the situation was not resolved until President Barack Obama's administration "drastically scaled back joint U.S.-Israel intelligence programs targeting Iran" and ultimately designated Jundallah a terrorist organization in November 2010.[39] Although the CIA cut all ties with Jundallah after the 2007 Zahedan bombings, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and United States Department of Defense continued to gather intelligence on Jundallah through assets cultivated by "FBI counterterrorism task force officer"; the CIA co-authorized a 2008 trip McHale made to meet his informants in Afghanistan. According to The New York Times: "Current and former officials say the American government never directed or approved any Jundallah operations. And they say there was never a case when the United States was told the timing and target of a terrorist attack yet took no action to prevent it."[40]

After Rigi was arrested on 23 February 2010, Iran's intelligence minister Heydar Moslehi at a press conference in Tehran claimed that Rigi had been at a US base in Afghanistan 24 hours before his arrest. At a press conference, he flourished a photograph which he said showed Rigi outside the base with two other men, though he gave no details of where the base was, or how or when the photograph was obtained. Photographs were also shown of an Afghan passport and identity card said to have been given by the Americans to Rigi. Moslehi also alleged that Rigi had met the then NATO secretary-general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, in Afghanistan in 2008, and had visited European countries. He said agents had tracked Rigi's movements for five months, calling his arrest "a great defeat for the US and UK".[41] On February 25 Iranian state television broadcast a statement by Rigi stating he had had American support and that

"The Americans said Iran was going its own way and they said our problem at the present is Iran… not al-Qaeda and not the Taliban, but the main problem is Iran. We don't have a military plan against Iran. Attacking Iran is very difficult for us (the US). They [Americans] promised to help us and they said that they would co-operate with us, free our prisoners and would give us [Jundullah] military equipment, bombs, machine guns, and they would give us a base.

BBC News carried a report on the statements, noting that "It is not possible to say whether Abdolmalek Rigi made the statement freely or under duress." The US has denied having links with Rigi's group, Jundullah.[42][43] Reuters also reported that Geoff Morrell, Pentagon press secretary, dismissed claims by the Iranian government that Mr. Rigi had been at an American military base just before his arrest. Morrell called the accusations of American involvement “nothing more than Iranian propaganda.”[44]

Rigi's "confession" of American support was likely coerced. According to a former U.S. intelligence officer, Rigi was captured by Pakistani officials and delivered to Iran with U.S. support: "It doesn't matter what they say. They know the truth."[39]

On November 3, 2010, the U.S. Department of State officially designated Jundallah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, thereby making it a crime for any person in the United States or subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to knowingly provide material support or resources to Jundallah. [45]

Pakistan

Jundallah is also actively involved and conducts terrorist attacks having linked up with other banned religious groups since the start of 2011. Pakistan has worked with Iran especially during the time of the Shah in fighting many of the separatist groups in Balochistan. Pakistan's assistance in the capture and arrest of Jundallah's leader.[46] Despite denials, a few Iranian MPs have often even castigated Pakistan's efforts in tackling the Baloch-based insurgency. Hossein Ali Shahriari, Zahedan's representative in parliament, rhetorically asked, "Why does our diplomatic apparatus not seriously confront the Pakistani government for harboring bandits and regime's enemies? Why do security, military and police officials not take more serious action?".[47] It has been claimed, Jundallah can not operate with at least some degree of support from within Pakistan and that elements from within Pakistani security establishment, particularly ISI with financial support of Saudi Arabia and its supplementation through the largest opium black market in the world have woven a complicated web of drug smugglers and terrorists to project power in the region and beyond.[27] General Hasan Firoozabadi of Iranian Army said, one of the main bases of Jundallah has been identified and pointed out to Pakistan and Iran is awaiting for Pakistan's action on the matter.[48] In a rare criticism Iranian Intelligence minister after the Saravan attack claimed Pakistan is not meaningfully cooperating with Iran on the issue of Jundallah.[49]

Saudi Arabia

Iran considers Jundallah as a group connected to Taliban and their opium revenues, getting financial as well as ideological support directly from Saudi Arabia in collusion with other hard-line elements within Pakistan and Afghanistan[citation needed]. Others alleged that United States has long supported Low intensity conflict and assassinations with Saudi money, especially against nationalists, socialists, and Shias.[27][50][51]

Timeline

2005 Attack on Iranian President

The motorcade of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was ambushed during his visit to Balochistan province, in which at least one of his bodyguards was killed and others injured.[52]

2006 Tasooki Attack

On 16 March 2006, four days before Iranian new year, Jundallah blocked a road near Tasooki and killed 21 civilians. A thirteen-year-old student on his way to new year holidays was caught in the crossfire.[53][54]

2007 Zahedan Bombing

On February 14, 2007, a car bomb and gunfire directed at a bus killed 18 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Guards commander Qasem Rezaei said, "This blind terrorist operation led to the martyrdom of 18 citizens of Zahedan" and attributed the attack to "insurgents and elements of insecurity."[55] Jundallah claimed responsibility for the attack on 15 February.[56]

Iranian security forces also arrested five suspects, two of whom were carrying camcorders and grenades when they were arrested, while the police killed the main "agent" of the attack.[47] Among the arrestees was Said Qanbarzehi, a Balochi, who was hanged in Zahedan prison on 27 May 2007. He had been sentenced to death at the age of 17 along with six other Balochi men—Javad Naroui, Masoud Nosratzehi, Houshang Shahnavazi, Yahya Sohrabzehi, Ali Reza Brahoui and Abdalbek Kahrazehi (also known as Abdalmalek)—in March 2007,[57] despite the absolute international prohibition on the execution of child offenders.[58] Two days later on Friday, Feb 16 2007, Jundallah bombed a girls school in city of Zahedan and the leader of the group took responsibility for it on the official TV of MEK.[59]

Mass abduction

Jundallah militants kidnapped 21 Iranian truck drivers near Chah Bahar on August 19, 2007 and brought them to Pakistan. Pakistani forces later freed all of them.[60]

Police abduction

On June 13, 2008, 16 police officers in southeastern Iran were abducted and brought into Pakistan.[61] In September 2008, Jundallah released one of the hostages.[62][63] In December 2008, it was revealed that Jundullah had killed the other 15 hostages.[64]

Saravan Bombing

In a rare suicide bombing in Iran, a car bomb was driven into a security building in Saravan, Iran, on December 29, 2008. The explosion killed four Iranians.[65][66]

Saravan Ambush

On January 25, 2009, 12 Iranian policemen were ambushed and killed by Jundallah near Saravan.[67]

Zahedan Mosque Blast

A bomb blast on May 28, 2009 rocked a mosque in the south eastern Iranian city of Zahedan as mourners participated in a ceremony marking the death of the daughter of the prophet of Islam, which killed 25 people and injured 125 others, less than 3 weeks before the Iranian 2009 presidential elections. The Iranian government promptly accused the United States of having financed and orchestrated the attack in order to destabilize the nation in the lead up to its presidential election. Two days after the attack, three men were publicly hanged for smuggling the explosives used in attack into Iran from Pakistan. The trio were already in prison at the time of attack and had been tried for previous attacks by Jundallah including 2007 Zahedan bombings.[68] Interior Minister Sadegh Mahsouli said in a statement posted on the internet Friday that "those who committed the Thursday bombing are neither Shia nor Sunni. They are Americans and Israelis."[69] Abdel Raouf Rigi, the spokesman for Jundallah claimed responsibility on a Saudi Arabian state owned TV channel, Al-Arabiya.[68][70]

2009 Pishin Bombing

On October 18, 2009, 42 people were killed in a suicide bombing in the Pishin region of Sistan-Baluchistan, including at least 6 officers in Iran's Revolutionary Guards such as the deputy commander of the Guards' ground force, General Noor Ali Shooshtari, and the Guards' chief provincial commander, Rajab Ali. Jundallah claimed responsibility.[71][72][73]

Capture of Rigi

On February 23, 2010 Iran captured Abdolmalek Rigi.[74] On February 26, Rigi appeared on Iranian TV, claiming that the U.S. promised him financial and military aid to fight the Iranian government, which the U.S. denied.[75] He was executed on June 20, 2010 in the Evin Prison in Tehran.[76]

Activities following Rigi's execution

In the wake of Rigi's capture and execution, Al-Arab claimed that Jundallah named Muhammad Dhahir Baluch as his replacement.[77]

2010 Zahedan Bombings

On July 16, 2010, 27 people were killed in a double suicide bombing at the Jamia mosque in Zahedan. The blasts, timed 20 minutes apart to maximize injuries,[78] are believed to have killed several members of the Revolutionary Guard.[79]

December 2010 Chah Bahar bombings

Two bombs near a mosque in south-eastern Iran which killed an estimated 39 people at a Shia mourning ceremony.[80] The Fars news agency said there were four bombers: two of them detonating explosives attached to their belts, a third was shot at by Iran's intelligence service; and the fourth was arrested.[80] Iran blamed Pakistan and its intelligence services, the ISI, for the attacks.[80]

October 2012 Chah Bahar bombing

According to Voice of Russia, a suicide bomber attacked a mosque in south eastern Iran on 19 October 2012, killing one person and wounding several more worshippers who gathered for their Friday prayer.[81] Later, Seyyed Baqer Husseyni, Majlis member, said that "the October 19th crime was committed by the same people who removed the Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO – opposition group) from the list of terrorists and who train mercenaries and use them against the people. They are guided by America and Israel."[82] A Sunni group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying "We, the Mujahideen of Harakat Ansar Iran, proudly bring you the news of our first successful operation from our new series of operations code named Ra'ad (operation storm). In this operation, approximately 20 officers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (Pasadaran) were killed by an explosive-rigged van in the city of Chabhar, Iran, while one brother Mujahid, Hamza Saravani, was martyred."[82]

Offshoots

The Baluch militant groups Jaish ul-Adl and Harakat Ansar Iran recruited many members of Jundallah in their continued violent campaign against the Iranian state.[83]

In literature

The Scriptwriter is the first English language novel written about Jundallah by a writer from the Pakistan/Iran region.[84]

See also

References

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