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Kyrgyzstan Confirms Iran Intercepted Plane, Arrested Two Passengers


Iranian TV shows arrested Jundallah leader Abdolmalek Rigi upon his return to Tehran.

Iranian TV shows arrested Jundallah leader Abdolmalek Rigi upon his return to Tehran.

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyzstan has confirmed that Iran forced one of its planes to land and arrested two of the passengers, apparently confirming Tehran's claim that it seized a top Sunni militant on a flight to the Central Asian country, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Taalaibek Turumbekov, deputy chief of Kyrgyzstan Aba Joldoru, the national airline, told RFE/RL that a plane flying from Dubai was made to land in the southern Iranian city of Bandar Abbas on February 23, escorted by two Iranian jets.

Turumbekov said Iranian security forces arrested two of the 119 passengers on board. He said the plane was later allowed to continue its flight to Bishkek:

"The plane was forced to land at Bandar Abbas airport, while flying over Iranian territory. They held the plane for three-four hours, checked it, and kept two people," Turumbekov said.

The aircraft belonged to Kyrgyzstan's Istok-Avia company.

There has been no comment so far from the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry.

Iranian authorities announced on February 23 that that they had seized the leader of the Sunni rebel group Jundallah, Abdolmalek Rigi, on a flight from Dubai to Bishkek.

It was unclear who was the second passenger taken out of the plane, but Iranian media reported that at least one more Jundallah member had also been arrested in the operation.

Jundallah confirmed its leader's arrest on a blog (junbish.blogspot.com) that has been carrying statements by the group in recent years.
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