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U.S. Rejects Iran Claims Of Links To Sunni Rebel Group

Suspected Jundollah leader Abdolmalek Rigi (file photo)
WASHINGTON -- Washington has rejected accusations by Iran of U.S. backing for a Sunni Muslim rebel group whose leader was arrested in Iran this week.

Iran's Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi has said Jundollah leader Abdolmalek Rigi had been in a U.S. military base 24 hours before his arrest by Iranian security forces on February 22.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Farda, State Department spokesman John Sullivan denied the charges as "absurd."

"Any allegations of U.S. involvement with Jundollah or any kind of terrorism within Iran are absurd. The U.S. is focused on antiterrorism operations throughout the globe and does not support any kind of terrorism activities, anywhere. Any allegations of U.S. involvement are ludicrous," Sullivan said.

The U.S. statement came as Iranian media broadcast what it said was Rigi's "confession" that the United States had offered to provide him military aid and "a base along the border with Afghanistan near Iran."

It was not clear under what conditions the confessions were extracted from Rigi.

Jundollah operates in Iran's southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The group has claimed responsibility for a series of deadly bombings in recent years.