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Iran again blames NATO, West for Jundallah

TEHRAN, July 12 (UPI) -- Tehran is again blaming NATO and Western intelligence agencies for supporting the terrorist activities of the Jundallah militant group inside Iran.

Sunni Arab and Baluch ethnic militants last year claimed responsibility for a pair of bombings that killed at least 67 people last year in Iran's southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan.

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Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi told the official IRNA news agency after a Cabinet meeting Sunday in Tehran that the U.S.-European military alliance is aiding Jundallah.

"Jundallah terrorists want to carry out terrorist acts inside the country but they are arrested (before being able to do so)," Moslehi said.

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He asserted the group is based outside of Iran, adding, "They are being supported by foreign and NATO intelligence agencies."

Iran has claimed Western involvement with Jundallah since it captured and killed its leader, Abdolmalek Rigi, early last year. Rigi was arrested in February 2010 and executed four months later on charges of armed robbery, bombing operations and armed attacks on police and civilians.

Tehran has claimed Rigi confessed to having dealings with the United States government and was promised money and support for "waging insurgency" inside Iran.

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His death was followed by twin attacks at the grand mosque in Zahedan, capital of Sistan-Baluchestan, in July 2010 -- acts Jundallah claimed were in retaliation for Rigi's hanging. The blasts claimed 28 people and a further 167 people were injured, and Iranian officials pointed fingers at the West.

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Iran's state-run Press TV blamed "hard-line Wahabis and Salafis trained by the CIA in Pakistan" for the bombings and General Hossein Salami, deputy commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, claimed the victims "were martyred by the hands of mercenaries of the United States and United Kingdom," The Guardian reported.

Another Jundallah bombing came in December, when a blast rocked the southeastern Iranian port city of Chabahar on the final day of the Shiite religious celebration of Ashura.

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That blast was also reportedly in retaliation for Rigi's execution, the group said in a statement.

"This operation was a revenge for the hanging of the head of the movement Abdolmalek and other members of Jundallah," the statement read. "In this suicide operation … tens of (Iranian Revolutionary) Guards and mercenaries have been killed. The operation was carried out to expose the aggressors of Baluchistan."

Again Iranian officials blamed the West.

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Ali Abdollahi, Iran's deputy interior minister, told the official state news agency IRNA in February, "We have plans to smash the Rigi group and will pursue (our goal) seriously. The remaining members of the Rigi group are linked to foreign intelligence agencies including the U.S. (CIA)."

U.S. President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Alistair Burt, Britain's foreign office minister for the Middle East, all issued condemnations of Jundallah's bombings last year.

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In November the U.S. State Department officially placed the group on its list of foreign terrorist organizations, saying Jundallah "has engaged in numerous attacks resulting in the death and maiming of scores of Iranian civilians and government officials.

"Jundallah uses a variety of terrorist tactics, including suicide bombings, ambushes, kidnappings and targeted assassinations," U.S. officials said.

Iran announced this month that two Jundallah commanders were killed in a fight with government security forces.

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