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Iran Arrests Members Of Sunni Rebel Group

Wounded men in a hospital in Zahedan following the bomb blast in May, which killed 25 people.
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran has said it had arrested four members of Jundallah, a Sunni rebel group which Tehran has blamed for bombings and "terrorist" activities in the past, the student news agency ISNA reported.

Jundallah (Soldiers of God) claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on a Shi'ite mosque in Zahedan, capital of the volatile southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, in late May which killed 25 people.

Iran, which is predominantly Shi'ite, has linked Jundallah to the Sunni Islamist Al-Qaeda network.

ISNA quoted an Intelligence Ministry statement as saying the four Jundallah members were arrested in Sistan-Baluchistan.

"Four terrorists...linked to the Rigi group have been arrested...the group had plans to carry out bombings in several places in Iran," the statement said. "A large amount of explosives and weaponry was found in the hiding place of these terrorists."

Iran hanged 13 members of the group in July for alleged killings and attacks in the southeast. The execution of a brother of Jundallah leader Abdolmalek Rigi was postponed.

Iran accuses the United States of backing Jundollah in order to create instability in the country. Washington denies the charge. Jundallah itself says it is fighting for the rights of the Islamic republic's minority Sunnis.

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

Most people in Sistan-Baluchistan are Sunni Muslims and ethnic Baluchis. Close to Pakistan and Afghanistan, the region has been the scene of frequent clashes between security forces and heavily armed drug smugglers.

Murder, adultery, rape, armed robbery, apostasy, and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Iran's Islamic law, imposed since the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution.