Iranian Baloch Sunni insurgent groups

August 5, 2016 Comments Off on Iranian Baloch Sunni insurgent groups


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ansar harkat iranHarakat Ansar Iran

Harakat Ansar Iran (Persian: حرکت انصار ایران‎‎; Movement of the Partisans of Iran) was a Sunni militant organization active in 2012–2013 in the Sistan and Baluchestan insurgency and a designated terrorist organization by Iran. It was one of two militant groups, along with its ally Jaish ul-Adl, which split from Jundallah after the arrest of its leader in 2010.

Harakat Ansar was initially led by Mohammad Shafi who was killed in Pakistan. After his death, Hesham Azizi a.k.a. Abu Hafs al Baloochi became the leader.

Shahadah banner and a banner (on bottom) that reads: "death to Khamenei".

Shahadah banner and a banner (on bottom) that reads: “death to Khamenei”.

The group later dropped “Iran” from their name, calling themselves Harakat al-Ansar which is in Arabic instead of former Persian name. The group merged with Hizbul-Furqan and formed Ansar Al-Furqan in late 2013.

 

furqanHizbul-Furqan Iran

Harkat ul-Ansar announced a merger with Hizb al-Furqan in December 2013 on its webpage. Little information is available about Hizb al-Furqan prior to this merger. The two groups merged under the name Jammat Hizb al Furqan and created a website. However, most activity is through Harkat ul-Ansar’s and affiliated sites. Like HAI and JUA, Hizbul-Furqan (HUF) also maintain a network of blogs and websites including a Facebook page. The group uses this image, which includes the colours of the Iranian flag (they often emphasized their that they are non-secessionists), as its logo

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The group has also published images of small groups of fighters:

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The group put out a message on their main blog — again, in Arabic rather than in Persian — announcing the merger with HAI. The message explains the union partly out of local motives but mostly from a jihadist perspective:

Under the banner There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah and Jihad for the sake of Allah to overthrow the Iranian regime, and uphold the word of God, and lift injustice, and support the oppressed, and to establish the law of Allah, and jihad to be a building block for the return of the Caliphate

Although this Arabic announcement is clearly intended for an audience outside Sistan va Baluchestan, HUF’s main communications have been in Persian and intended for a domestic audience. A Persian blog post places the Sunni struggle in Iran into a wider context with quotes from the Quran, and says that the late Ayatollah Khomeini and “his henchmen” have distorted Islam and created a dictatorship.

HUF LINKED TO TERROR ATTACKS ON IRAN-PAKISTAN BORDER

Iranian media, particularly State media or media linked to the IRGC, have been somewhat reticent in reporting on the Sunni Baloch groups — doing so is an admission that an insurgency, i.e. opposition to the Tehran regime, exists.

However, there have been some mentions of HUF, linking the group to the Sunni Baloch insurgent movement and to terror attacks in Sistan va Baluchestan, notably the January 2012 assassination of Molawi Jangi Zehi, the Friday prayers leader of Rask, who was killed on the Chabahar-Sarbaz road.

A report in the IRGC’s Gerdab from April 2012 says that Abdoljalil Ghanbar Zehi, the “terrorist leader” of the Hizbul-Furqan party was killed by Iranian security forces, alongside his second-in-command, Molavi Salahudin, also known as Hamza Mollazehi. Zehi was the “ringleader responsible for numerous bombings and…importing weapons to Iran to carry out terrorist operations in Pakistan’s border areas”.

According to Gerdab, HUF was formed in 1978, when it declared its aim of wanting to destroy the Islamic Republic. Gerdab says that HUF is a “Wahhabist” organization that worked alongside Jundullah and was supported by other countries in the region — standard accusations by Iran against Sunni insurgent groups.

Here images of one of  the killed Hizbul-Furqan leaders:

Molavi Abdul-Hamid Qanbarzehi (also known as Salah al-Din), former leader of the group.

Molavi Abdul-Hamid Qanbarzehi (also known as Salah al-Din), former leader of the group.

The outlet Habilian goes further, listing a series of allegations of attacks and crimes by HUF, including a joint attack with Jund’ullah in Chabahar in Sistan va Baluchestan.

A pro-insurgency blog post includes a statement from HUF in Persian regarding the killing of the two men, describing them as “Sunni Mujahideen” and saying that HUF is a Sunni response to the “tyrannical regime” in Iran.

However, it appears that HUF is a small group, which has not been involved in attacks for almost two years and which has had its leaders caught and killed by Iranian security forces. The question now is whether the merger with HAI will lead to increased activity for the new faction, with renewed attacks against Iranian targets.

HUF

 

10959086_872949119410938_361094028364418188_nAnsar Al-Furqan

Ansar Al-Furqan (Arabic: انصار الفرقان‎‎, Partisans of the Criterion i.e. Qur’an) is a Sunni Iranian Baloch militant organization active in Sistan and Baluchestan insurgency and a designated terrorist organization by Iran. The group was established in December 2013 by a merger of Harakat al-Ansar (Arabic: حرکةالانصار‎‎) and Hizbul-Furqan (Arabic: حزب‌الفرقان‎‎).

 

Sepah-e-Sahaba Iran (Soldiers of the Companions Iran,  SSI)

The Ansar Iran Movement announced its cooperation with the anti-Shi’a group Sipah-e-Sahaba Iran (SSI) and its desire to work with all parties that strive to overthrow the Iranian regime.

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Jondollah_LogoJundallah (Iran)

Jundallah, or Jondollah (جندالله, lit. “Soldiers of God”), also known as People’s Resistance Movement of Iran (PRMI), is a militant organization operating in the the Sistan and Baluchestan province of Iran. Jundallah is thought to have begun in 2003 and it is known for attacks against high-profile Iranian targets. The militant group states that it fighting for “Equal rights of Sunni Muslims in Iran”. It was allegedly founded by Abdolmalek Rigi, who was captured  and executed in Iran in 2010 and who witnessed mass public execution of his relatives that according to his own words encouraged him to take up arms against the Iranian regime. In an interview with Rooz (an Iranian online newspaper), Rigi declared himself an Iranian. Dan Rather’s US cable channel HDnet’s television news magazine Dan Rather Reports, also interviewed Rigi and showed a video of Rigi who described himself as “an Iranian” and denied that his goal is to form a separate Baluch state. He claimed that his goal is to “improve conditions for ethnic Baluchis”, and that his group is “fighting exclusively for the rights of Sunni Muslims in Iran”. In an October 17, 2008 interview aired on Al-Arabiya TV, Abdolmalek stated, “the only thing we ask of the Iranian government is to be citizens. We want to have the same rights as the Iranian Shiite people. That’s it.” He described his group as an Islamic awakening movement but denied any ties with Al Qaeda or the Taliban. He also told the interviewer that despite the fact that “many of us have been martyred … we are prepared to reach an understanding with the Iranian government, Insha Allah.

IranPixFa_IR_Rigi_5

On February 25 Iranian state television broadcast a statement by Rigi stating he had had American support. Such confessions are not taken serious by Iranian from all political spectrums as they are mostly made under duress._new_gondallahIt is believed to have between 700 to 2,000 fighters. Jundullah commanders claim the group has killed up to 400 Iranian soldiers.The group has been designated a terrorist organization by Iran, New Zealand and the United States.

 

Jaish_ul-AdlJaish ul-Adl

Jaish ul-Adl (Army of Justice) is an Sunni Iranian insurgent group based in Sistan-Baluchestan province of Iran. The group was founded in 2012 by members of Jundallah, a Sunni militant group that had been weakened following Iran’s capture and execution of its leader, Abdul Malik Rigi, in 2010. Its first major attack occurred in October 2013. The group has claimed responsibility for a series of operations against Iran’s domestic security forces and Revolutionary Guards operating in Sistan and Balochistan province, including the detonation of mines against Revolutionary Guards vehicles and convoys, kidnapping of Iranian border guards and attacks against military bases located in the province.

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The group claims that dozens of Revolutionary Guard members were killed in these operations, most of which were not reported in official Iranian media. Jaish al-Adl is also opposed to the Iranian Government’s active support of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s. Jaish ul-Adl is a designated terrorist organization by Iran

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The systematic oppression of Sunni people in Iran, particularly in the poverty-sticken Balochestan region, scores of killings and public executions of Baloch people (like with Rigi’s immediate family and the Rigi tribe), are causing the re-emergence of militant Sunni groups in Balochestan.

Image from an Iranian Sunni militant blog, arguing that the Iranian military forces and Rev. Guards cannot be considered as innocents i.e. non-targets, as they are all involved in the oppression of the Sunnis and mass-executions of Iranian Baloch in particular.

Image from an Iranian Sunni militant blog, arguing that the Iranian military forces and Rev. Guards cannot be considered as innocents i.e. non-targets, as they are all involved in the oppression of the Sunnis and mass-executions of Iranian Baloch in particular.

In 1928, the Independent State of Western Balochistan was annexed to Iran. The country was at that time ruled by Shah Reza Pahlavi, who toppled the Qajar dynasty in a military coup, immediately after the “Persian Constitutional Revolution” that took place between 1905 and 1907. The Baloch Land is Known as Balochistan. It is larger in size than France. The Baloch people are living in their natural geographical boundaries. Balochistan was intentionally divided up with pieces going to three countries: Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Pakistan again, this Nation is cut into three pieces: Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan, and in Iran also Baloch land is divided into Khorasan, Hormozgan and Sistan va Baluchistan provinces.

The Pahlavi dynasty created a centralized system, dominated by the Persians, forcing the Baloch community and other minorities to fight to protect their rights. In 1979 Iran became a so called Islamic republic and the Shah was forced into exile. However, the subsequent theocracies continued, and even strengthened the repressive policies adopted in the past, perceiving the Sunni Baloch as a threat to Shi’ite revolution.

Old Jundullah video. No such militant groups ever existed in Post-Khomeini era.

Old Jundullah video. No such militant groups ever existed in Post-Khomeini era.

Sistan-e-Balochistan has the worst indicators of Iran regarding: life expectancy, adult literacy, primary school enrollment, access to improved water sources and sanitation, infant mortality rate. Although it has important natural resources (gas, gold, copper, oil and uranium), the province has the lowest per capita income in Iran: by some estimates, nearly 80% of the Baluch would live under the poverty line. Economic under-development as well as political and cultural repression have fueled an armed opposition, which Iranian authorities have so far not managed to eradicate.

Many observers were persuaded that the capture and the subsequent execution of the leader of Jundallah, Abdelmalek Rigi, in 2010, had dealt a decisive blow to the Baloch insurgency, but the increase in attacks recorded since 2012 has shown that it is still alive and it represents a threat even more dangerous than in the past.

Iran’s repressive approach toward its Sunni minority will constantly back-fire and standard accusations by Iran against Sunni insurgent groups such as linking them to the west, Saudi Arabia etc. will not solve the problem. No such insurgent groups were known in the reign of the both late Shahs, both Shi’ites, yet different to Khomeini and his successor who are at the very least partly to be blamed for the instability and rise of armed groups in the Balochestan region of Iran.

The Baloch are known as fearless warriors, even according to Iranian folklore they are celebrated as the descendants of Rostam, the legendary hero in Shahnameh. Even the brutal Safavids haven’t managed to enforce Shi’ism on the Baloch (who are virtually 100% Sunni). Oppressing them will cost any Iranian government a hefty price, a price not worthy if the current Iranian regime really cares for the unity of Iran.

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