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Iran Said To Hang Two Members Of Sunni Rebel Group


TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran has hanged two members of a Sunni rebel group in the southeastern city of Zahedan, where the bombing of a Shi'ite mosque killed 25 people last month, an Iranian news agency reported.

The semiofficial Fars News Agency said the two dead men were members of Jundallah (Soldiers of God), which predominantly Shi'ite Muslim Iran says is part of the Sunni Islamist Al-Qaeda network.

Iran also says Jundallah is backed by the United States, Tehran's arch-foe.

Saudi-owned Al-Arabiyah television reported on May 29 that Jundallah had said it was behind the mosque bombing the previous day in Zahedan, which occurred as Iran was preparing for a June 12 presidential election.

But the June 6 Fars report did not mention the mosque blast, saying the two executed men were members of a terrorist group and accused of waging war against the Islamic republic.

It named one of them as Abdolhamid Rigi but did not say whether he was related to Jundallah leader Abdolmalek Rigi. Jundallah says it fights for the rights of minority Sunnis in Iran.

Separately on June 6, Iran's official IRNA news agency said security forces killed four rebels behind an attack on two trucks on a road west of Zahedan last week which killed one person and wounded two others.

Zahedan is the capital of Sistan-Baluchestan Province, where most people are minority Sunni Muslims and ethnic Baluchis.

Three people convicted of involvement in the mosque bombing were hanged in public in Zahedan on May 30. A day later, clashes broke out between supporters and opponents of a Sunni cleric in the city and six people died in an arson attack.

Close to Pakistan and Afghanistan, the region has seen frequent clashes between security forces and heavily armed drug smugglers, as well as intermittent attacks by Sunni Baluchi rebels.

The United States has rejected accusations by an Iranian official that it was involved in the bombing of the mosque.

Sectarian violence is relatively rare in Iran, whose leaders reject allegations by Western rights groups that the country discriminates against ethnic and religious minorities.

In the June 12 election, conservative President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who often rails against foreign threats to Iran's security, is pitted against a conservative and two moderates seeking detente with the West.
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