TEHRAN, Iran, (AP) – Authorities in southeastern Iran on Tuesday hanged 13 members of a Sunni Muslim rebel group convicted of bombings and killings in the area, the official IRNA news agency reported Tuesday.
The report said Abdulhamid Rigi, brother of Abdulmalik Rigi, leader of the group known as Jundallah or soldiers of God, had been scheduled to be hanged along with the 13 men on Tuesday but his execution was postponed. It gave no reason for the postponement.
Earlier on Tuesday, state radio reported that Abdulhamid Rigi was one of 14 men hanged.
There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.
The executions, according to the radio, took place in the city of Zahedan, some 930 miles (1,500 kilometers) southeast of Iran’s capital Tehran and scene of some of the deadliest attacks blamed on Jundallah, which has carried out bombings, kidnappings and killings in the area in recent years.
IRNA also said that all 13 were supposed to be hanged in public but authorities changed their mind at the last minute and decided to execute them inside Zahedan’s main prison. The state radio has earlier reported that that the executions took place in public.
The area in southeast Iran where Jundallah is active also is a key smuggling point for drugs — mainly opium — and is the scene of frequent clashes between police and traffickers.
Iran says Jundallah has close ties to “foreign forces” in neighboring Afghanistan, a possible reference to the al-Qaeda terror network.
Iran has faced several ethnic and religious insurgencies that have carried out sporadic, sometimes deadly attacks in recent years — though none have amounted to a serious threat to the government.
The Sunni insurgency in southeastern Iran seems to be the more serious at present.
In May, a suicide bombing targeting a Shiite mosque in Zahedan killed 25 worshippers. In 2007, a car bomb killed 11 members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards near Zahedan, capital of the large Sistan-Baluchistan province and home to about a million of Iran’s five million Sunni Muslims.
The remainder of Iran’s 70 million people are mostly Shiite Muslims.