Jundallah

Jundallah
Jundallah (Soldiers of God)
جندالله
Jondollah Logo.png
Dates of operation 2003-present
Leader

Abdolmalek Rigi  

Muhammad Dhahir Baluch[1] (acting)
Motives Equal rights for Sunni Muslims in Iran.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]
Active region(s) Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan
Ideology Sunni Islamism, Militant Islam, Salafist Jihadism, Islamic fundamentalism, religious conservatism
Status Officially designated as a terrorist organization by Iran and United States.[11]
Size 700[7][12]-2,000[13]

Jundallah, or Jondollah (Arabic: جندالله literally meaning Soldiers of God‎), also known as People's Resistance Movement of Iran (PRMI) (not to be confused with People's Mujahedin of Iran), is an organization based in Balochistan that claims to be fighting for the rights of Sunni Muslims in Iran. It was founded by Abdolmalek Rigi who was captured and executed in Iran in 2010.[3] It is believed to have between 700[7] to 2,000 fighters[13] and is said to be responsible for killing 154 and injuring 320 Iranian citizens since 2003,[14] while Jundullah commanders claim the group has killed up to 400 Iranian soldiers.[15]

The group has been designated a terrorist organization by Iran, and the United States[16] and it has been linked to, and taken credit for, numerous acts of terror, kidnapping and the smuggling of narcotics.[17] Many observers believe the group is linked to al-Qaeda.[18][19][20] Iran has long alleged that the U.S. government is supporting Jundallah. Several other sources such as the ABC News, Daily Telegraph, and journalist Seymour Hersh have also reported that Jundullah has received support from the United States against the government of Iran,[21][22][23][24] although the US denies any involvement.[21]

Contents

Background

Jundallah is thought to have began in 2003 and it is known for attacks against high-profile Iranian targets, both military and civilian. Its origin and structure remain murky.[25] 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.[26] There appears to be at least another militant organization with the name of Jundallah operating independently in Pakistan.[25]

Iran accuses the United States[25] and other foreign elements of backing Jundallah, possibly from Pakistani territory with Islamabad's support, despite Pakistan's apparent history of cooperation with Iran to suppress trans-border militant, 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."[27][28][29] It has also been alleged that Jundallah is involved in smuggling Iranian diesel fuel to Afghanistan and Pakistan, 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.[30]

Terrorist designation

Though the United States State Department under Hillary Clinton weighed designating Jundullah as a terrorist organization in 2009,[31] 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."[32] Iran hailed the decision.[33]

Views and goals

Jundullah have been referred to as separatists by various media,[34][35][36][37][38] and Iranian leaders have stated that Jundullah is proxy group used by the enemies of Iran to destabilise the Islamic Republic.[4] The group's (now dead) leader Abdolmalek Rigi, however, always denied the organization had any separatist agenda,[2][5][6][8] or foreign links, claiming that they merely fight for equal rights for Sunni Muslims in predominantly Shi'a Iran.[2][3][4] 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.[8] 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"[9][10]

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."[27]

Capture of Rigi

On February 23, 2010 Iran captured Abdolmalek Rigi.[39] 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.[40] He was executed on June 20, 2010.

In the wake of Rigi's capture and execution, alarab claimed that Jundallah named Muhammad Dhahir Baluch as his replacement.[41]

Alleged international support

United States

A report by Brian Ross and Christopher Isham of ABC News in April 2007 alleged that Jundallah "has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials" to destabilize the government in Iran,[42] citing U.S. and Pakistani tribal and intelligence sources.[25] The report alleges that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney discussed the activity of the group against Iran during his visit to Pakistan.[25] In a blog, the network stated that the support was believed to have started in 2005 and been arranged so that the U.S. provided no direct funding to the group, which would require congressional oversight and attract media attention, drawing parallels between American support for Jundallah and U.S. involvement in Nicaragua.[43]

The report was denied by Pakistan official sources.[44] But despite their denial ABC stood by their claim.[45] Alexis Debat, one of the sources quoted by Ross and Isham in their report alleging US support for the Jundullah, resigned from ABC News in June 2007, after ABC officials claimed that he faked several interviews while working for the company.[46] Ross went on to say the Jundullah story had many sources, adding, "We’re only worried about the things Debat supplied, not about the substance of that story." According to Ross, ABC had found nothing that would undermine the stories Mr. Debat worked on. However, he acknowledged that as the stories of fabrications continue to roll in, the network "at some point has to question whether anything he said can be believed."[47] This caused the network in 2007 to send a second team of producers to Pakistan investigating the original reports.[45]

Fars News Agency, an Iranian state run news agency, reported that the United States government is involved in PRMI's terrorists acts.[48]

Gholamali Haddadadel, Iranian parliament speaker in 2007, speaking to reporters said, Jundallah is part of pressure tactics used by United States to subdue Iran and hoped with Pakistani help, Iran would be able to defeat Jundallah.[49]

On April 2, 2007, Abdolmalek Rigi appeared on the Persian service of Voice of America, the official broadcasting service of the United States government, which identified Rigi as "the leader of popular Iranian resistance movement" and used the title of "Doctor" with his name. This incidence resulted in public condemnation by the Iranian-American community in the U.S, many of whom are opponents of the Iranian government, as well as Jundallah.[50][51][52][53][54][55][56][57]

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed another report in July 2008 that US congressional leaders had secretly agreed to former president George W. Bush's USD 400 million funding request, which gives the US a free hand in arming and funding terrorist groups such as Jundullah militants.[42]

Iranian speaker of parliament Ali Larijani, three days after the 2009 terror attack against Zahidan mosque revealed, that Iran had intelligence reports regarding the United States links with certain terrorist groups operating against Iran and accused the United States, of commanding them. He implicated the United States in trying to start a civil war between Shia and Sunni segments of Iranian society.[58][58] Regarding the investigation of the terrorist act he added that Iran would want Pakistan to cooperate fully and not become a mere part of the designs against Iran.[59]

According to The Daily Telegraph Jundallah is just one part of a Black Operation Plan involving psychological operations and other covert operations to support dissents among minorities (Baloch, Arab, Kurds, Azeris, etc.) in Iran, which along with tactics of military posturing, risky maneuvers and occasional conciliatory gestures are designed to improve United States bargaining position in any future negotiation with Iran.[21][25][25][60] Furthermore these Black Operations build upon a coordinated campaign consisting of disinformation, placement of negative newspaper articles, propaganda broadcasts, the manipulation of Iran's monetary currency and international banking transactions.[21][61][62][63][64]

Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, has said, United States intelligence operatives have been meeting and coordinating with Anti-Iranian militants in Afghanistan as well as encouraging drug smuggling into Iran.[58] [65][66] A former Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army General Aslam Beg has accused the Coalition Forces in Afghanistan of training and supporting Jundallah against Iran.[67]

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".[68]

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.[69][70] 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.”[71]

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. [72]

Saudi Arabia

Iran considers Jundallah as a group connected to Taliban and their opium revenues, getting financial as well as ideologic support directly from Saudi Arabia in collusion with other hard-line elements within Pakistan and Afghanistan[citation needed]. Others point to the fact that United States has for long supported Low intensity conflict and assassinations with Saudi money, especially against nationalists, socialists and Shias.[28][65][73][74]

Sweden

American journalist Dan Rather has traveled to Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Sweden and France investigating Jundallah and its funding sources. On the US cable channel HDnet's television news magazine Dan Rather Reports, he indicated that support comes from Balochis in Sweden where Radio Baloch FM is broadcast from Stockholm.[9][75][76]

United Kingdom

Iranian authorities also blame the United Kingdom for supporting Jundallah.[77][78] In a BBC production "Panorama: Obama and the Ayatollah", a terrorist organisation which has carried out acts of terror leading to death of civilians and children in Iran is briefly mentioned but not named, with the official prosecution files and their Interpol warrants blacked out in video. The international warrants call for their arrest under international anti-terrorism laws, which has not happened and Tehran blames western governments particularly British government for protecting them from an international arrest.[79]

Pakistan

Jundallah is also actively involved and conducts terrorist attacks having recently[when?] linked up with other banned religious groups. Pakistan has worked with Iran especially during the time of the Shah in fighting many of irredentist groups in Balochistan. Pakistan's assistance in the capture and arrest of Jundallah's leader.[80] Despite denials, a few Iranian MP's 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?".[81] 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.[28] 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.[82] In a rare criticism Iranian Intelligence minister after the Saravan attack claimed Pakistan is not meaningfully cooperating with Iran on the issue of Jundallah.[83] At least some Iranian analysts believe this huge transnational web comprising economic, political and military dimensions is ultimately being run by CIA (Special Activities Division), aiming to topple or at least weaken Iranian government; with Pakistan just being a pawn much like the earlier United States support for Mujahedin against Soviet Union with collaboration of Pakistan. These analysts believe the ideological element supporting Jundallah and similar groups come from religious madrassah's of Pakistan supported religiously and financially by the USA and Saudi Arabia.[58][65][84][85][86]

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.[87]

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.[84][88]

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."[89] Jundallah claimed responsibility for the attack on 15 February.[90]

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.[81] 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,[91] despite the absolute international prohibition on the execution of child offenders.[92] 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.[93]

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.[94]

Police abduction

On June 13, 2008, 16 police officers in southeastern Iran were abducted and brought into Pakistan.[95] In December 2008, it was revealed that Jundullah had killed all of the hostages.[96]

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.[97][98]

Saravan Ambush

On January 25, 2009, 12 Iranian policemen were ambushed and killed by Jundallah near Saravan.[99]

Zahedan Mosque Blast

A bomb blast on May 28, 2009 rocked a mosque in the city of southeastern 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.[100] 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."[101] Abdel Raouf Rigi, the spokesman for Jundallah claimed responsibility on a Saudi Arabian state owned TV channel, Al-Arabiya.[100][102]

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 elite 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.[103][104][105]

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,[106] are believed to have killed several members of the Revolutionary Guard,.[107]

Jundallah has also been named as a possible source of a pair of motorcycle bomb attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists on November 28, 2010 [108][108]

2010 Chah Bahar Bombings

On December 14, 2010, two suicide bombers targeted a group of Shiite worshippers at a mourning ceremony a day before Ashoura near a mosque killing at least 39 people. [109]

See also

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