02/23/2010, 00.00
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Tehran arrests a Sunni militant "linked to al Qaeda"

Abdolmalek Rigi, leader of Jundullah is believed to be the author of various attacks in markets and mosques. The opium trade is the likely cause of the conflict between the Pasdaran and the Sunni group.

Tehran (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The state television reported today that Iranian authorities have arrested the leader of a Sunni group linked to al Qaeda.

The Arabic channel Al Alam said Abdolmalek Rigi, leader of the group Jundullah was arrested in the eastern part of the country. He is accused of being responsible for some terrorist attacks in the area of Sistan-Baluchistan.

Last October, in a suicide attack in Zahedan, 42 people were killed, including six Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards), the parallel army employed by Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah. In May a bomb in a mosque claimed 25 lives and wounded 130 people. In February 2007 Jundullah killed 13 Revolutionary Guards.

Jundullah was founded in 2002 to defend the Baluchi, a very marginalized and poor minority.

Iran suspects Jundullah of having ties to al Qaeda and in any case with the Sunni world. At the same time, the authorities say it is backed by Western powers - particularly the U.S. and Britain - who want to weaken the leadership of the country.

It appears more likely that the conflict between the Pasdaran and Jundullah depends on the struggle for control of the opium trade.

Zahedan is a mainly Sunni town in a country that is majority Shiite and lies on the boundary of an main opium trading route. Caravans pass through Zahedan shipping opiates to Iran and around the world.

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