Arresdted Jundallah chief to be handed over to Iran


LAHORE: The arrested Jundullah chief Abdul Rauf Riggi was tracked down
by Pakistani authorities through his wireless set while he was making
a phone call to a London-based newspaper from his Pak-Iran border area
hideout in Balochistan to convey a threat to the Iranian government.

According to well-informed security officials in Islamabad, the
Pakistani agencies were already making frantic efforts to track down
Riggi, especially after the December 15 killing of 40 people in a
deadly suicide bombing in the Iranian city of Chabahar, when the most
wanted Jundallah chief appeared on their radar on December 21, making
a phone call from his wireless set to the London-based Asharq
Al-Awsat, a leading Arabic international newspaper. As the phone call
had given the Pakistani authorities a fair idea about Riggi’s
whereabouts on the Pakistani side of the Iranian border, they moved
quickly and detained him within the next 24 hours following a brief
commando operation. Interestingly, the arrest came the day the
Pakistani and the Iranian presidents were in Istanbul at the Economic
Cooperation Organisation’s summit. Riggi will be handed over to Iran
shortly after being interrogated by the Pakistani security and
intelligence agencies.

Abdul Rauf Riggi had actually succeeded his elder brother Abdolmalek
Riggi as Jundallah chief following his arrest and subsequent execution
in Iran. Riggi was captured in February 2010 in a dramatic operation
by the Iranian authorities while he was spotted on a flight from Dubai
to Kyrgyzstan. The Iranian warplanes subsequently forced the
commercial aircraft to land in Iran. It is widely believed that the
“Get Riggi” operation could not have been possible without help from
Pakistani agencies which had passed on vital information about his
travel plans as soon as he had left an American military base in
Afghanistan after holding a clandestine meeting with the NATo military
chief there. After a quick trial, Abdolmalek Riggi was sent to the
gallows on terrorism charges on June 20, 2010.

Jundallah is a Baluchi insurgent group that operates in the
Sistan-Baluchistan province of Iran and has substantial presence in
the Pak-Iran border belt of Baluchistan. The Sunni majority of
Sistan-Baluchistan has had tense relations with Iran’s central
government since long and the Jundallah leadership claims it was
fighting for the interests of Sistan-Baluchistan’s large ethnic Baluch
community. Jundallah or the Army of God claims to represent the rebel
anti-Shia Sunni community of the Iranian Balochis. The dedication of
the Riggi brothers can be gauged from the fact that one of them –
Abdolgafoor Riggi – had opted to sacrifice himself by executing a
suicide car bombing on December 28, 2008, targeting the headquarters
of Iran’s joint police and anti-narcotics unit in the Saravan city.

Since then, Jundallah has carried out several deadly suicide bombings
in Iran, the latest being the December 15 suicide bombings in the
Iranian city of Chabahar. In a telephone call hardly 24 hours after
the Chabahar attack, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had lodged
protest with his Pakistani counterpart President Zardari and asked him
to order his security forces to quickly arrest ‘known terrorists’ and
hand them over to Iran. President Zardari assured the Iranian
President that Pakistan would not withhold any help in uprooting
terrorism. On December 20, a few days after Ahmadinejad and Zardari
had spoken the Iranian government hanged 11 members of Jundallah who
were convicted of bombings in Iran that killed 15 policemen and 12
members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

The next day, on December 21, a furious Abdulrauf Riggi made a phone
call to the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper and threatened
Tehran that an official of the Iranian nuclear plant, who was
kidnapped by Jundallah in October this year, would be executed shortly
if the group’s demands for the release of over 200 militants and
political prisoners being held in the Iranian jails were not met.
Riggi had added that likely execution of the Iranian official should
also be taken as a reaction to the execution of 11 Balouchis in Iran,
who he said were innocent civilians and had nothing to do with
Jundallah. While releasing his interview 24 hours before his arrest,
the newspaper said that Rigi was speaking on the phone from ‘somewhere
inside Baluchistan’s mountains’.

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