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World News

Factbox: Jundollah, Iran's Sunni Muslim rebels

(Reuters) - Iran on Monday executed Abdolhamid Rigi, a convicted member of Jundollah and a brother of the detained leader of the Sunni Muslim rebel group behind the deadliest bomb attack in the Islamic Republic in years, official media said.

Here are some key details about Jundollah:

LINKS:

* Iran, which is predominantly Shi’ite, has linked Jundollah (God’s Soldiers) to the Sunni Islamist al Qaeda network. It also accuses the United States of backing Jundollah in order to create instability in the country. Washington denies the charge.

* Jundollah says it is fighting for the rights of Iran’s minority Sunnis. Iran reject allegations by rights groups that it discriminates against ethnic and religious minorities.

ALLIANCES:

* Jundollah chief Abdolmalek Rigi said in a 2007 interview that his group was fighting for the rights of the Baluch people facing what he called “genocide” in Iran, but denied it harbored any separatist or radical sectarian agenda.

* Jundollah has evolved through shifting alliances with various parties, including the Taliban and Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service, who saw the group as a tool against Iran, according to Lahore-based Pakistani analyst Ahmed Rashid.

ORIGINS:

* Jundollah, which also calls itself the Iranian People’s Resistance Movement, was founded in 2002 and launched its armed campaign in 2005.

* Since early 2005 the group has sought to expand operations in Iran’s south-eastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan. It has carried out kidnappings and, more recently, suicide attacks.

* The group probably numbers fewer than 100 militants armed with explosives and small arms in Sistan-Baluchestan which borders both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

* Leader Rigi vowed to fight the Shi’ite government in Iran unless economic conditions improve in the province.

* Abdolmalek Rigi was arrested in February this year. Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi said Rigi had been in a U.S. military base 24 hours before his arrest, state-run Press TV reported.

* ATTACKS:

* In June 2005, Jundollah kidnapped Revolutionary Guard officer Shahab Mansuri and sent a video of him to al-Arabiya. He was killed on July 13 and Iran blamed Jundollah.

* On December 14, 2005, an assassination attempt was carried out against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while on a visit to Sistan-Baluchestan. This attack was also blamed on Jundollah.

* In 2007, Jundollah claimed responsibility for several attacks. On February 14, 11 members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards were killed in an attack on a bus in the city of Zahedan.

* In December 2008 there was a suicide attack in Saravan on a security forces headquarters. This was the first such suicide attack in Iran and was carried out by Abdul-Ghafoor Rigi, a brother of the group’s leader.

* On May 28, 2009, a suicide bomber killed 25 people and wounded more than 120 in an attack on a mosque in Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchestan. Jundollah claimed responsibility for the attack.

* An October 18, 2009 bombing by the group killed 40 people. Fifteen Revolutionary Guards members were among those killed, including the deputy head of ground forces. Jundollah said it was behind the deadliest attack in Iran since the 1980s.

EXECUTIONS:

* On May 30 three men were hanged in public for involvement in the Zahedan bombing. Two more were hanged on June 2. Iran executed 15 more men accused of membership of Jundollah in July.

* On November 3, Iran executed Jundollah member Abdolhamid Rigi.

* The leaders’s brother also called Abdolhamid was hanged on Monday.

Sources: Reuters/Janes World Insurgency and Terrorism

Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit; Editing by Samia Nakhoul

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