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Iran closes border with Pakistan

June 01, 2009 19:30 IST

Iran has closed its border with Pakistan and asked it to arrest and hand over the chief of an anti-Shia militant group linked to several terrorist strikes in Iran, including last week's attack on a mosque in Zahedan that killed 25.

Iranian authorities partially closed the border with Pakistan at Taftan in Balochistan province last week after a suicide bomber attacked a mosque in Zahedan on May 28. The complete closure of the border has been ordered on Saturday. Tehran has asked Islamabad to arrest and hand over Jundullah chief Abdul Malik Rigi, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told the media adding that the request was made after Pakistan last month extradited eight Jundullah activists wanted by Iranian authorities. 

Malik said the government has directed authorities to find and capture Rigi, who is living in the area along the border with Afghanistan. Jundullah has claimed responsibility for the suicide attack on a mosque in Zahedan that killed 25 people and injured over 100. Iran publicly hanged three Jundullah operatives on May 30 for involvement in the attack on the mosque. Malik also said he had invited his Iranian counterpart to visit Pakistan to work out a mechanism for joint patrolling of the border between the two countries.

The activities of the Pakistan-based Jundullah have emerged as a major irritant in Islamabad's ties with Tehran. The Sunni Muslim group, which has links to Al Qaeda, is also believed to have been involved in the kidnapping of a top Iranian diplomat in Peshawar last year. Meanwhile, reports have said that Iranian authorities had also tightened security along the border. The Iranian move has led to the suspension of trade through the area.

Tribesmen living on the two sides of the border were facing enormous difficulties due to the stoppage of trade. Iranian border authorities have also stopped issuing temporary permits to people settled on both sides of the border. The suspension of trade has resulted in an acute shortage of food items imported from Iran.

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