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Iran arrests Sunni militant leader

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jundallah blamed for deadly bombings, abductions, targeted killings in Sistan-Balochistan
  • Province borders Pakistan and is about 1,100 kilometers (700 miles) southeast of Tehran
  • Jundallah also blamed for mosque attack in May; more than a dozen worshippers killed
RELATED TOPICS
  • Iran
  • Tehran

Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- Iranian authorities have arrested the leader of a Sunni militant group blamed for dozens of attacks inside the country, state media said Tuesday.

Abdolmalek Rigi, who heads Jundallah (Soldiers of God), was taken into custody in eastern Iran while he was en route from the United Arab Emirates to Kyrgyzstan, Press TV reported.

Press TV, citing an anonymous source, said that Rigi and one of his deputies were captured after their Kyrgyzstan-bound plane was grounded by Iranian security forces in the port city of Bandar Abbas. The plane originated in Dubai, Press TV said.

No further details were available.

Tehran has blamed Jundallah for carrying out deadly bombings, abductions and targeted killings in the southeastern Sistan-Balochistan province, which borders Pakistan. It accuses the group of trying to destabilize Iran with the backing of the West.

Jundallah claims it has no separatist aspirations but rather it wants the predominantly Shiite country to stop persecuting the Sunni Balochis who live in the province.

The province lies about 1,100 kilometers (700 miles) southeast of Tehran.

Iran said Jundallah was behind a suicide bombing in the province that killed more than 40 people -- including several members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard -- in October.

Jundallah also is blamed for a mosque attack in May that killed more than a dozen worshippers and injured at least 55 in the province.

And in 2007, a car bomb that struck a military bus in the province's capital, Zahedan, was also the work of Jundallah, Iran says.

The bomb went off as soon as the bus, which belonged to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, arrived to pick up military personnel at a barracks. It killed at least 11 Guard members.

CNN's Shirzad Bozorgmehr contributed to this report.