Iranian officials say they have arrested Abdolmalek Rigi, the leader of the Sunni militant group Jundallah, allegedly responsible for number of attacks in Iran.
Iranian TV announced the capture of Abdolmalek Rigi, whom it accused of being an "evil terrorist, responsible for killing many innocent people." It showed the handcuffed leader of the Sunni militant group Jundallah being taken off a plane by masked Iranian intelligence officers.
Iranian Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi said at a news conference that Rigi was captured while traveling on his private jet from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan. But an earlier report from Iran's semi-official Fars news agency quoted the Interior Minister as saying Rigi had been arrested abroad with three other rebels and transferred to Iran.
Moslehi accused Rigi of having ties to various European and Arab spy agencies, in addition to the CIA.
He says that the documents that we uncovered in Rigi's possession indicate he was in contact with a number of European nations and that he traveled from Gibraltar to an unspecified European Union country in order to plot terrorist acts against Iran. He also claims Rigi met with the commander of NATO in Afghanistan in April of 2008.
The intelligence minister claimed Rigi carried a U.S.-issued Afghan passport and visited a U.S. base in Afghanistan hours before being captured.
The French news agency reported a senior U.S. official called the Iranian charges "a totally bogus accusation."
Jundallah is accused by Iran of a bloody October attack in Sistan-Baluchestan Province that left more than 50 people dead, including six Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders. The group is also accused of a mosque-bombing in Zahedan, last May that left several dozen dead.
The United States, Britain and Pakistan all deny backing Jundollah.
The brother of Abdolmalek Rigi was captured last year and sentenced to death for "terrorism."
Rigi's arrest coincided with other developments, including a speech by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in South Khorasan Province in which he declared that Iran would repulse any attack by foreign enemies amid mounting tensions over Tehran's nuclear program.
He says that Iran, with the help of God, will repulse any attack by outside enemies. He goes on to say that Tehran will welcome a hand which is extended for friendship, but that the Iranian nation will cut it off if it is extended for aggression.
Mr. Ahmadinejad also spoke briefly about Iran's nuclear program, repeating previous assertions that Tehran "has mastered the uranium enrichment process," while adding that Iran is "not trying to build atomic weapons, because it doesn't need them."