TEHRAN (AFP) – Abdolmalek Rigi, head of the Sunni rebel group Jundallah who waged a deadly insurgency in Iran’s southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, was hanged early Sunday, state news agency IRNA reported.
“After the decision of the Tehran revolutionary tribunal, Abdolmalek Rigi was hanged on Sunday morning in Evin prison,” IRNA said.
“The head of the armed counter-revolutionary group in the east of the country… was responsible for armed robbery, assassination attempts, armed attacks on the army and police and on ordinary people, and murder,” it quoted a court statement as saying.
Rigi was captured in February while on a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan. His hanging comes less than a month after his brother Abdolhamid was also executed on charges of “terrorism.”
Rigi led the shadowy Jundallah (Soldiers of God) that killed civilians as well as military officials in Sistan-Baluchestan province.
Jundallah says it is fighting Tehran’s Shiite rule to secure rights for Sunni Baluchis who form a significant population in Sistan-Baluchestan which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan.
A top Sunni cleric who represents the province in the Assembly of Experts, the body which supervises the activities of Iran’s supreme leader, said the people of Sistan-Baluchestan were “very happy” with Rigi’s execution.
“The execution of Abdolmalek Rigi is the result of his shameful acts, and other criminals should be aware that if they continue with their outrageous acts against Islam in the country, they will meet the same fate as this criminal,” IRNA quoted Nazir Ahmed Salami as saying.
IRNA, quoting the court statement, said Rigi’s group was “responsible for the killing of 154 members of security forces and other innocent people and wounding of 320 people since 2003.”
It said Jundallah was “linked to members of foreign intelligence services, including members from US and Zionist regime’s intelligence services under the cover of NATO.”
It was also linked to the intelligence services of some Arab states and the counter-revolutionary group People’s Mujahedeen, the statement said.
Rigi, who the statement said had appealed for clemency, was also charged with forming the “terrorist group Jundallah which was fighting the Islamic republic.”
“He collaborated and ordered 15 armed abductions, confessed to three murders, and ordered the murders of tens of citizens, police and military personnel through bombings and armed actions,” the statement added.
Rigi’s arrest was reportedly a spectacular operation, with warplanes forcing an aircraft flying him from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan to land in Iran.
Soon after his arrest, Jundallah claimed it had appointed Muhammad Dhahir Baluch as its new leader, the US-based SITE monitoring agency reported.
According to SITE, Jundallah said in its website posting: “Let the (Iranian) regime know that it will face a movement that is stronger and much more solid than ever before and one whose existence it has not been aware of.”
A few days after Rigi’s arrest Iranian state media alleged that the United States had offered to provide the militant aid to battle the Islamic regime.
“They (Americans) said they would cooperate with us and will give me military equipment,” Rigi said in a taped statement broadcast on Iran’s state-run English-language Press TV.
Tehran has long accused the group of being trained and equipped by American and British intelligence services as well as by Pakistan in a bid to destabilise the government. Washington denies the charges.
Rigi’s brother Abdolhamid was hanged in Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchestan, on May 24, state media had reported.
He was convicted of “Moharebeh” (armed opposition to the state) and being “corrupt on earth by membership in a terrorist group.”