The Iranian government is reporting today that Abdulmalek Rigi, the founder and leader of the Jundallah militant group, was turned over to their custody today following his arrest. Rigi was reportedly arrest on a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan.
Jundallah is a Baloch separatist group responsible for several major attacks, including the destruction of a Shi’ite mosque in Zahedan during the election campaign last year. US officials have privately confirmed having secretly encouraged and advised Jundallah for years.
But exactly how deep America’s ties to the group were or are is unclear. Rigi’s younger brother, Abdulhamid Rigi, who was captured by Iran last year, claimed that the US provided direct funding to the group after it broke off ties with al-Qaeda in 2003 and that US officials even ordered specific terrorist attacks inside Iran.
Though the group’s attacks have been virtually exclusively against Iran, they are also known to operate inside Pakistan. The Iranian government has also claimed that the US gives the group safe haven in neighboring Afghanistan and even provided Rigi with an Afghan passport.
Jundallah and Iran reportedly held secret talks earlier this month in Dubai, though the talks apparently ended without an agreement and Jundallah issued a statement last week pledging new attacks against the Shi’ite government.