News / Middle East

US Designates Iran Opposition Faction a Terrorist Group

The United States on Wednesday officially designated the Iranian opposition group Jundallah as a terrorist organization.  The Sunni Muslim group is said to have been responsible for several lethal attacks in Iran in recent years, including bombings at Shi'ite mosques in the city of Zahedan.  

Although Iran is on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, the Departments of State and Treasury designated one of the Tehran government's most radical opponents as a terrorist organization.

In tandem announcements, State and Treasury officials said Jundallah has used terrorist tactics, including suicide bombings and targeted assassinations, in a series of attacks in Iran since 2003.

The United States says the group was behind bomb attacks at mosques in the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan in 2009 and in July of this year that killed more than 70 people and wounded hundreds more.

The State Department's acting deputy spokesman Mark Toner said the decision to blacklist Jundallah shows consistency in U.S. anti-terrorism efforts.

"Today's announcement reflects our commitment in rooting out terrorism wherever it exists," said Toner. "Jundallah has indiscriminately killed Iranian civilians.  And despite the recent capture and execution of its former leader, the group has continued its activities and, frankly, remains capable of carrying out future attacks."

Iran has repeatedly accused the United States of supporting Jundallah and other Iranian opposition factions.  Its captured former leader, Abdul Malik Rigi, said on Iranian state television before his execution in June that the United States had promised the group weapons and a base in Afghanistan.

State Department spokesman Toner said the United States does not sponsor any form of terrorism.  He urged other governments in the region to take similar action against Jundallah.

"We've repeatedly stated and I'll reiterate again that the United States has not provided support to Jundallah," he said. "In fact, we don't support any form of terrorism.  We'll continue to work with the international community to curtail support for terrorist organizations."

Wednesday's action freezes all assets Jundallah might have in the United States and makes it illegal for Americans to provide the group material support, including donations.

The State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations contains the names of nearly 50 groups, including al-Qaida, Lebanon's Hezbollah movement and the Iranian opposition group The People's Mojahedin  of Iran, or MEK.

The exiled MEK, which has released information on Iran's covert nuclear program in recent years, has campaigned for its removal from the U.S. blacklist.  In July, a U.S. federal appeals court ordered the State Department to review the matter.

But a senior State Department official says he is unaware of any pending change in the MEK's status.  The group is accused of bomb attacks before Iran's Islamic revolution that killed U.S. defense contractors in Iran, among others.

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