The Baluchi Rebel Threat Haunts Tehran

Large contingents of military units, firefighters and ambulances have been pulled into Tehran from remote parts of Iran and tucked out of sight in the outskirts so as not to draw notice.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iran sources report that the clerical government lives in fear of an imminent Baluchi rebel mass-casualty strike in the capital of 12 million inhabitants.

The nightmare haunting them is an attack on the lines of the Oct. 23, 2002 Chechen hostage-taking atrocity at the Moscow Theatre, where 130 men and women died in an audience attending a musical; or the horrific Beslan school siege of Sept. 1, 2004 which left 344 hostages dead, most of them children.

The Iranian government’s foreboding is not unfounded.

Intelligence input reaching Iran’s security agencies indicates that the Baluchi guerrilla rebels planning to strike Tehran were also responsible for the savage slaughter of government officials and civilians in the Sistan-Baluchistan province of southeastern in the last three months.

In March, 22 high Iranian officials were killed in Baluchistan when rebels threw up a roadblock to ambush their convoy. In mid-April, they stopped four private cars by a similar roadblock on the Bam-Kerman highway and killed 12 civilians in cold blood, including small children.

Until about a month ago, Iranian security was certain that American and British intelligence agencies were behind these attacks. But new information and an analysis of the Baluchi rebels’ modes of operation, weapons and explosive devices, have strengthened the premise that their backers now are external al Qaeda units from Afghanistan or Pakistani Balochistan.

Interrogations of captured rebels have yielded evidence that al Qaeda networks in these two regions are sheltering fugitive Iranian Baluchis fleeing across the border to escape pursuit by Revolutionary Guards or Bassij volunteer squads.

The Iranians have since discovered that the Baluch insurrection is led by Abdolmalek Rigi, a tough fighter who took part in the 1980s mujaheddin uprising against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and is personally acquainted with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Rigi’s men, who call themselves Jond-Allah – the Soldiers of God, are now thought to have carried out the slaughters of the last three months.


Funded by Saudi al Qaeda sympathizers and possible Pakistan’s SIS


Their cold-blooded actions suggest to the Iranians that the Baluchis of Jond-Allah have been trained by al Qaeda instructors, possibly even by Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s men. It is also suspected that as Sunni Muslims they are funded by well-heeled sympathizers in Saudi Arabia. In Shiite Iran this minority has traditionally suffered persecution, even before the 1979 Islamic revolution in the Shah’s day.

Today, Sistan-Baluchistan is the province on the lowest rung of beneficiaries from government budgetary grants. It is therefore the poorest. The Sunni Baluchis are not allowed to build their own mosques. Therefore, al Qaeda and likeminded Saudi backers are believed to have stepped into the breach to render aid and financing for Rigi’s group.

Tehran suspects the Baluchi rebels have yet another outside backer.

Factions of the Pakistani military intelligence-SIS which support Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency are thought also to back Rigi’s Baluchi insurgents.

Part of their reasoning is that it is better to point Baluchi militancy against Iran and divert it away from the Pakistan regime.

Another part is this: Just as the Taliban’s dependence on the SIS gives Islamabad a strong hand in Afghanistan, so too its influence in the Baluchi rebel movement must give the Pakistanis leverage with Tehran.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources report that fierce battles are raging in the province between Baluchis and government troops. For some weeks, large contingents of Revolutionary Guards ground and air forces have been pounding rebel strongholds in the mountains and using helicopters to strafe them from the air.

Spokesmen in Tehran have claimed to have crushed the revolt more than once, but according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources, far from dying down, the fighting is spreading day by day.

The government is anxious to play down the clashes to keep a group of lawmakers from moving no confidence in the interior minister Hojjat-ol Eslam Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi for failure to subdue the rebellion.

The Baluchi leader, not content with terrorist attacks, warned the Iranian regime in a broadcast over the Los Angeles-based exile radio station Sday-e-Iran, that if government troops are not pulled out of Baluchistan, his men will advance on the capital for a mega-terror operation. While taking the threat seriously, Tehran has left the troops in place. Acting commander of Iran’s security forces, Brig.Gen Hossein Zolfaghari, recently admitted that the province was aflame with heavy fighting and that routing the rebels would take time.

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