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Iran Arrests Rebels In Restive Border Regions

File photo of a kurdish demonstration in Iraq.
by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) May 05, 2006
Iranian armed forces have arrested four Sunni Muslim rebels near its borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan and three Kurdish rebels close to the frontier with Iraq, a government newspaper said Thursday.

The rebels from Sistan-Baluchestan, an unruly area and major thoroughfare for drugs smuggled from Pakistan and Afghanistan, were identified as members of Jundallah (Army of God) -- a hardline Sunni militant group opposed to Iran's Shiite clerical regime.

The Iran newspaper also said a "large weapons cache" was found.

Sunnis form the majority in Baluchestan, although Shiite Islam is Irans official religion. In mid-March members of Jundallah allegedly entered Iran and killed 22 people, and shortly afterwards Iranian troops said they had killed eight rebels.

On April 9, press reports said "rebels" -- although they were not identified as Jundallah fighters -- had killed two Iranian army officers and seriously wounded a senior religious official in Sistan-Baluchestan province.

On Iran's western borders, security forces also reportedly detained three ethnic Kurdish rebels from the Pejak group -- which Iran alleges is also linked to the Iraq-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is fighting the Turkish government.

The paper said the arrests took place between the Iranian towns of Baneh and Saghez, situated close to the border with Iraq's mainly-Kurdish Sulaimaniyah province.

On Sunday, Iraq's defense ministry said Iranian forces had entered Iraqi territory and shelled PKK positions over a period of 24 hours.

Iran has refused to confirm or deny its troops had crossed into Iraqi soil.

Iran is bound by a treaty with Turkey to fight the outlawed PKK, which has waged a two-decade insurgency against Ankara for self-rule in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast.

In return, Turkey has pledged to fight the Iranian armed opposition group, the Iraq-based People's Mujahedeen.

Iranian officials have also accused London and Washington of supporting ethnic minority rebels operating within the Islamic republic's sensitive border areas, amid a worsening stand-off over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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