Saturday, June 14, 2008

16 Iranian guards kidnapped


14 June 2008 (KhaleejTimes)

ISLAMABAD - A shadowy Islamic militant group Saturday claimed it had taken 16 Iranian border guards hostage near Pakistan's southern Balochistan province to gain the release of their comrades.

Maulvi Abdur Rauf, a spokesman for the Sunni Muslim group called Jundallah, or God's Brigade, claimed responsibility for the kidnappings in a phone call made to journalists in the provincial capital Quetta from an undisclosed location.

Jundallah wants the release of its more than 2,000 militants detained in Iranian prisons in exchange for the safe return of the border guards, who were believed to have been moved to a hideout inside Pakistan.

"Iran has two weeks to free our comrades otherwise they (the border guards) will be killed," Rauf said.

Iranian authorities asked their Pakistani counterparts on Friday to help trace the 16 personnel, including at least one officer, deployed at an outpost in Iran's south-eastern Sistan-Baluchestan province that shares borders with both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Sistan-Baluchestan is experiencing a Sunni Muslim insurgency, with Jundallah being the main militant group blamed for several high- profile attacks on Shia-dominated Iranian forces.

Iranian authorities also suspect Jundallah, which has bases in Iran as well as Pakistan, of having links with Al-Qaeda terrorist organization.

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