TEHRAN, (AFP) – Iran on Monday hanged 11 members of the Sunni militant group Jundallah which claimed last week’s devastating suicide bombing of a Shiite mourning procession, a judiciary official said.
“This morning 11 members of those belonging to (Jundallah), who in recent months were involved in terrorist attacks in the province (Sistan-Baluchestan), fighting with police, and martyring several innocent people, have been hanged in Zahedan jail,” Ebrahim Hamidi, head of the provincial justice department, told state news agency IRNA.
Jundallah (Army of God) is a shadowy Sunni militant group which has claimed several deadly attacks in Sistan-Baluchestan, of which Zahedan is the capital and which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan, including a December 15 suicide bombing in the city of Chabahar that killed 39 people and wounded dozens.
Hamidi said those hanged were identified and arrested by Iranian security and intelligence forces.
“These corrupt and Mohareb (waging war against God) elements… went through all the legal and religious procedures of receiving a fair and public trial,” he said.
Hamidi said they were charged with “corruption on earth, fighting against God and the Prophet and confronting the sacred regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Under Iranian penal code these crimes are punishable by death.
“Thus they were convicted and sentenced to hanging. The sentence was carried out after receiving confirmation from the judiciary,” he added.
Jundallah, whose leader Abdolmalek Rigi was hanged in June, says it is fighting for the rights of the ethnic Sunni Baluchis who make up a significant population in Sistan-Baluchestan.
Iranian officials charged that the group is receiving support from the intelligence services of the United States and Britain.
Those hanged included some who had carried out attacks against Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards members, a regular target of Jundallah, IRNA reported.
Three of them were convicted of killing nearly 30 Guards in separate attacks, while another was hanged for providing logistical support during a bombing of a mosque in Zahedan.
Two Shiite mosques in Zahedan have been the targets of bomb attacks in the past two years killing a total of more than 50 people.
Jundallah also claimed the December 15 suicide attack at a Shiite religious procession in Chabahar which was condemned internationally.
The bomber struck in a central square as worshippers took part in the procession marking the eve of the last day of Ashura, the most revered Shiite mourning ritual.
Jundallah said the Chabahar bombing was to avenge the hanging of its leader Rigi.
Iran has cracked down hard on the group and last month the United States officially designated Jundallah a foreign terrorist organisation. That drew a cautious welcome from Iran, which accuses Washington of supporting the group.
The hangings of the 11 Sunni rebels bring the number of executions in Iran to at least 162 so far this year, according to an AFP count based on media reports. At least 270 people were executed in 2009.
Along with China, Saudi Arabia and the United States, Iran has one of the highest numbers of executions each year.
The Islamic republic says the death penalty is essential to maintain law and order and is applied only after exhaustive judicial proceedings.
Murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking and adultery are other crimes punishable by death in Iran.