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Iran Vows To Retaliate For Police Killings

The country's top prosecutor, Hojjatoleslam Qorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi, made his comments on state television.

The country's top prosecutor, Hojjatoleslam Qorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi, made his comments on state television.

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran will give a "tooth-breaking" response to a Sunni Muslim rebel group that killed 16 policemen it abducted in June, a senior official has said in comments on state radio.

The official IRNA news agency reported on December 4 that all the seized policemen had been killed, after they were taken hostage some six months ago from a checkpoint in the town of Saravan in Sistan-Baluchestan Province bordering Pakistan.

Shi'ite-dominated Iran says the rebel Jondollah (God's Soldiers) group, which were demanding the release of 200 of its members, has links with Al-Qaeda.

"We will give a firm and tooth-breaking response to armed rebels in border areas," Iranian Prosecutor-General Qorban-Ali Dori-Najafabadi was quoted as saying, without elaborating on what action authorities would take.

A member of parliament from Sistan-Baluchestan, Abdulaziz Jamshid-Zehi, said the bodies of the policemen had been found, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency. But he said there were 14, not 16 as said by other officials quoted by Iranian media.

"Officials are trying to identify the bodies found and it is as yet not clear when they were martyred," Jamshid-Zehi was quoted as saying.

Jondollah, which reportedly transferred the hostages to Pakistan after their abduction, previously had said it killed four of them.

The rebels operate mainly in Sistan-Baluchestan, home to Iran's mostly Sunni ethnic Baluchis and notorious for clashes between security forces and drug smugglers.

In August 2007, Iran accused Jondollah of kidnapping 30 people in the province. Those hostages, who were taken to Pakistan, were freed later by Pakistani forces.

The group claimed earlier in 2007 responsibility for an attack on a bus carrying Iranian Revolutionary Guards that killed 11 people.

Iran says the group's head, Abdolmalek Rigi, is a leader of the Al-Qaeda network in Iran. In an interview in August, Rigi told Al-Arabiya television that he was thinking of expanding its operations to defend the rights of Sunni Muslims in Iran.

Iran denies Western allegation that it discriminates against minorities.

Tehran has in the past accused the United States and Britain of trying to destabilize it by supporting ethnic minority rebels operating in sensitive border areas.