Iran urges Pakistan to hand over rebel group leader

TEHRAN Fri Oct 23, 2009 6:47am EDT

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran urged Pakistan Friday to hand over the leader of the Jundollah militant group after a suicide bombing which killed 42 people, state television quoted a senior official as saying.

Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar arrived in neighboring Pakistan Friday for talks on efforts to combat the Sunni group after the Sunday attack in mainly Shi'ite Iran.

"We have documents that show (Abdolmalik) Rigi travels readily to Pakistan ... we are here to ask Pakistan to hand over Rigi to Iran," Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar told state television in Pakistan.

Jundollah, or "Soldiers of God," claimed responsibility for the attack on Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards in southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province. It killed 15 Guards, including six senior commanders, and 27 others.

Iran says Jundollah has bases in Pakistan.

"It (sheltering Rigi) is not in the interest of the two countries' good neighborly relations," Najjar said.

Iran accuses the United States and Britain of backing Jundollah and has suggested it has links with Pakistani intelligence. Washington, London and Islamabad have all denied involvement.

Tuesday, a senior Revolutionary Guards commander said his force should be given permission to confront terrorists inside Pakistan, state media reported.

It did not give details or make clear whether General Mohammad Pakpour was referring to authorization from Pakistan or from Iranian authorities.

Iranian state television said Tuesday three people had been detained in connection with the bombing, but gave no details.

Many minority Sunnis live in the remote desert area, which has seen an increase in bombings and clashes between security forces, ethnic Baluch Sunni insurgents and drug traffickers.

Jundollah, which accuses the government of discrimination against Sunnis, has been blamed for many deadly incidents over the last few years. It reportedly claimed a bombing of a mosque in Sistan-Baluchestan in May which killed 25 people.

The Guards, seen as fiercely loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, handle security in border areas. Their power and resources have increased since the election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; editing by Andrew Roche)