Attack in Iran: What are the links to Pakistan?

October 18, 2009

A week after suspected Sunni Islamist insurgents attacked the headquarters of the Pakistan Army, a suicide bomber killed six senior Revolutionary Guards commanders and 25 other people in Shi’ite Iran in one of the deadliest attacks in years on the country’s most powerful military institution.

Were these two events connected only by the loose network of Sunni insurgent groups based in and around Pakistan? Or are there other common threads that link the two?

Iranian state media said Jundollah, an ethnic Baluch Sunni insurgent group, claimed responsibility for the attack in the Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchistan. The group, led by Abdomalek Rigi, is believed to have bases in neighbouring Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

Jundollah has been linked in some reports to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an anti-Shia sectarian group based in Pakistan’s Punjab province, and to the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), based in Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Both the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the TTP are believed to have close ties to al Qaeda, and are suspected of involvement in the attack on the headquarters of the Pakistan Army.

Trawling through published reports about Jundollah, it is not easy to work out how clear its links are to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda. This article in the Asia Times Online cautions that there are two organisations with the same name, one focused on Pakistan and the other on Iran.  Pakistani newspapers, however, have reported links specifically between Rigi’s group and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and TTP.

Being fellow travellers in the network of Sunni Islamist insurgent groups does not necessarily mean they are pursuing a common agenda. However, it does raise intriguing questions about how far they are collaborating, and about how far al Qaeda might be directing operations behind the scenes.

According to the Jihadica website, al Qaeda has been publicly cementing its ties with the Tehrik-e-Taliban, whose declared aim is to take over Pakistan.  The TTP is currently under siege in its stronghold in South Waziristan, where the Pakistan Army launched a long-awaited ground offensive on SaturdayA series of militant attacks acrossPakistan in the past few weeks have been seen as an attempt by the Tehrik-e-Taliban and its al Qaeda-linked allies to show it can outwit the Pakistani security forces.

So was the bombing in Iran part of that deliberate attempt to spread mayhem across the region? That’s almost impossible to tell for now, although the Long War Journal earlier this year quoted an al Qaeda commander as talking about expanding the jihad into neighbouring countries, including Iran.

Of all the many players in the region, al Qaeda probably has the most to gain from the fall-out of the attack in Iran.

The Iranian armed forces, which have long harboured suspicions that Jundollah was funded by the west to weaken Iran, have accused the United States and Britain of involvement in the attack and vowed revenge.  That could torpedo efforts by President Barack Obama’s administration to improve relations with Iran and seek its help in stabilising Afghanistan.

It could also raise tensions between Pakistan and Iran, which reacted sharply to the bombing of a mosque in the Iranian city of Zahedan earlier this year. As Pakistan struggles to fight militants within the country and defeat them in South Waziristan, the last thing it needs is trouble on its border with Iran.

So is there an overall plan at work here? Or instead, is it simply that the region has become so destabilised that insurgents are finding it easier to operate both inside and outside of Pakistan?

(Photos: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; Pakistani soldiers in Lahore)


I’d like to lend my support to all Pakistanis in your pursuit of the evil militants. Do not be discouraged by the spate of suicide attacks. Support the efforts of your military and somehow tough it out through this difficult time. Let the Pakistani military and people prove to the world that you have cleansed yourselves of terrorism as a weapon. These are the moments where you can appreciate the support by the world community. It is all right if your leaders chose the wrong path in the past. But here is a chance to come out clean and demand a second chance from the world. Do not let the elements come back to grip your country ever again. Wars and conflicts never offer any solution. They only multiply it.


Its official, its CIA vs ISI and it is only going to get bloody. While Pakistan would like to cooperate with the US publicly,-Umairmeaning of COOPERATE according to Pakistan:give us billions of dollars to spend how we see fit and then go away and mind your business.WHERE AND WHEN WAS IT STATED OFFICIALLY THAT ITS CIA vs ISI?

Posted by bulletfish | Report as abusive

Let’s take a look at this situation rationally forget all the anti-pakistan sentiments and the blame game being played here. For any of us who either lives,has lived, was born, has family from the region stretching from middle east to the far east we have to look at the history behind this region. for all its trouble that pakistan had before, it was never under crisis it is now. blame who u want, benazir, zia ul hak, mushraff, nawaz sherrif, zirdari, India, ISI, whoever, the current situation is something far beyond then anyone of these factors could have caused. Iran and India both although have had to deal with security situations in the past but not things like mumbai attacks, and the recent bombings in iran. afghanistan for all its misery and troubles of the past few decades is ping pong ball for the region to take a swing at when appropriate. but lets take a look at the history of the region and all the foregin interference this region has seen. this is not something that is centuries old. only a few decades ago, the british did everything in their power to divide the muslims, hindus, sikhs, christians, and create what is now india, pakistan, bangladesh, kashmir. the U.S and british just a few decades ago, help over throw a democratically elected mosadegh in iran and place a ruthless dictator in the shah of iran. Mind you the so called “democracy spreaders” can’t even stick to their own principals. now all of sudden we are supposed to follow their advice and establishing secure and safe “democratic” states? the same countries who trained and supported people like the shah of iran, saddam hussain, osama bin laden, suharto. let’s not fall for all this nonsense of blaming each other, blaming pakistanis, or anyone else. right now its the people of pakistan who are suffering the most with no help coming to them from neighboring nations. there are hundreds of thousands of refugees and hundreds dying everyday, it is not their responsibility to have to sit their and suffer to meet the demands for the rest of us. let’s take a look at who really is the cause of the problem.

Posted by Hassan | Report as abusive

“there are hundreds of thousands of refugees and hundreds dying everyday, it is not their responsibility to have to sit their and suffer to meet the demands for the rest of us. let’s take a look at who really is the cause of the problem.- Posted by Hassan “–>We hope to God, that Pakistani’s do not uselessly suffer at the hands of militants or anybody else.But to solve this problem, all Pakistani’s must take responsibility for their country and realize that every personal problem in life begins and ends with the individual, not comparing that the individuals suffering there, but the Country of Pakistan collectively must realize that all of this chaos begins and ends with Pakistan itself.As a country, you can’t blame others for your problems, you must come to terms with what you are and take conscious steps to self-analyze and self-correct.A peaceful responsible nation starts with peaceful responsible citizens.

Posted by GW | Report as abusive

Hassan:@Let’s take a look at this situation rationally forget all the anti-pakistan sentiments and the blame game being played here.”–Good thinking. But you missed China here. China is mostly silent as is their approach, but are they really so? They want a piece of the “Central Asia” pie as much the West does, and they would not like all the players to be peaceful to each other. remember terrorism appears terrorism only when it knocks at the door and cruely the very terrorist that people support. Some Pakistanis are thinking out of the box now and are turning against those terrorists they supported previously, but Chinese (or should I say Han Chinese) have nothing at stake here (forget Xinjiang since that was was nothing by comparison). To me, China is not a small culprit here with trillions of Dollars in cash, they are doing what they want.Put China into perspective to get a more complete picture.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

@With all the campaign to malign the ISI and paint them as villains, both Pakistan Army and ISI are greatly respected in Pakistani public and enjoy more support than the corrupt politicians. Atleast the people look towards the Army in times of crisis in Pakistan.-UmairUmair: It is normal that the citizens of a nation respect their Army/spy agencies. Regarding “looking towards the Army in times of crisis in Pakistan”, all do that, we Indians do the same but will not like Army to step in governance. I have seen many times Indian Army saying on certain issues that those are political problems and cannot be solved by Army intervention. I am sure Pakistani politicians will call Army when needed.Military intervention in political affairs of a democracy is not a normal thing to do? It is worse when the citizens take it as a normal thing. I hope the majority in Pakistan dislike direct intervention of Army in political affairs which makes political leaders look stupid and the thus the government untrustworthy for making deals on vital issues.Also help me understand, if Pakistanis voted for PPP party and Pak Army does not let this party run the country during the hours of crisis, does it not amount to betrayal of the Pakistanis citizens who put faith in democracy?Until Pakistanis do not let politicians handle the country, Pakistan will be in a mess due to a number of reasons. This is distilled view of Pakistanis experts who want politicians and army take their appropriate position at all times for proper governance.Here is a video clip during Musharraf’s regime. A Pakistani student questions Musharraf on Pakistan’s failure to become a democracy like India at a discussion forum on National Integration and complains about Army intervention in politics.Myra, the clip is in Urdu but I will appreciate if you let this go through since it is relevant—you can get it translated if you want. He compares Pak to India on this. xllG0KA

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

And the ethnocentric thinking by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards that Jundallah can’t think, operate or function without help from the Westis quite franky racist and ignorant.The one thing that I’ve learned, over the years,is that Al Queada like groups hate the Shia peoples.They hate the Shias more then the West.These terrorist groups find funding, training and expertise by they’re own means and usually from other Sunni dominated extremist groups.That maybe the only thing we have in common with Iran.

Posted by Steve Real | Report as abusive

‘We are aware of Indian involvement in Balochistan’Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said that there is clear evidence of Indian involvement in Balochistan and that New Delhi should not be pointing fingers at Islamabad.(Dawn, 21/10/2009)If there is CLEAR EVIDENCE then why was it not presented before until now?Only yesterday Rehman Malik was jeered and had insults thrown at him by crowds outside the bombed Islamabad University. NOW, all this talk of CLEAR EVIDENCE! Talk about diverting attention from current situations.

Posted by bulletfish | Report as abusive

Mr. Bulletfish you said:”‘We are aware of Indian involvement in Balochistan’Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said that there is clear evidence of Indian involvement in Balochistan and that New Delhi should not be pointing fingers at Islamabad.(Dawn, 21/10/2009)If there is CLEAR EVIDENCE then why was it not presented before until now?Only yesterday Rehman Malik was jeered and had insults thrown at him by crowds outside the bombed Islamabad University. NOW, all this talk of CLEAR EVIDENCE! Talk about diverting attention from current situations.- Posted by bulletfish “–>I really don’t know if the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and now Rehman Malik and his mighty band of players know that we have the internet. By having that, we are all aware, fully aware what all politicians say infront of an internation audience and fully aware of the much different stories that they tell in front of their own national audience, for the sole purpose of maintaining political perception of power and clout.It is quite foolish when politicians do this, Musharaff was caught lying several times to western audiences on many topics, too many to list here. On the same topics, he tells one thing to Pakistani’s and an entirely different thing to western U.S. audiences. We DO actually keep track of these two-faced comments made by Pakistani politicians and that is exactly why they make themselves look so corrupt, lying and blantantly dishonest and that is how the opinions on Pakistan are formed, through what hear coming out of your politicians mouths.I think this is a cultural norm in Pakistan, to tell fables, lies and conspiracies to an internal audience at home and talk all moderate, forward thinking and seem to look sounding like a westerner in front of an international audience, like at the UN.Again, please we are not stupid, please keep your stories straight, is it any wonder why we think Pakistan is so screwed up?Please tell the same stories in front of your Pakistani audiences as you do to international audiences.

Posted by GW | Report as abusive

The article indicates that Al Qaeda benefits from torpedoing the Obama effort to come to terms with Iran. Are there other benefactors? How about Israel? They have been working hard to prevent any long term negotiated deal between Iran and US. What better way to do this by antagonizing Iran through these types of terror acts from neighboring countries. They have trained and used PKK for this purpose. Why not, the almost never heard of and now made famous by the media, Baluchi minority? There has been article after article on how and why Israel and the previous US admin should go after assassination of guard commanders and Nuclear scientists in Iran, however when it happens we are supposed to believe there is no connection because they issued an statement to that effect?

Posted by The Chosen One | Report as abusive

blaming pakistanis, or anyone else. right now its the people of pakistan who are suffering the most with no help coming to them from neighboring nations.- Posted by Hassan=====Your frustration is understandable. For couple of decades people of “pakistan” were waging terrorism on the Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians of India and on the muslims of Afghanistan. Now the muslims of “pkistan”are waging terrorism on the muslims of pakistan. What a mess! You are tasting your own bitter medicine of terrorism tonic and judging from the comments one gets the sense you really are unhappy about it.


Pakistan is sponsoring all terrorism in world. A terror unit anywhere in muslim world, when eliminated will find a safe harbor in Pakistan. It is like when in past any peaceful person were eliminated, they came to india, any terrorist outfit, facing elimination in world, comes to pakistan. So we see uighur terorists coming to pakistan, iranian terrorists coming to pakistan, arab (Sudan, Syria, UAE) terrorists coming to pakistan, bangladeshi terorists coming to pakistan, indian terrorists coming to paksitan, afghani terrorists coming to pakistan. When hamas will face liquidity test, it will run to pakistan. I see pakistan as the greatest land of terrorism in world.

Posted by Jockey Chan | Report as abusive

I live in Baluchistan & I think being a local I have more understanding & insight of this specific matter.Jundollah is an organization based on strict sunni values & is headed by Abdul Malik Reggi (Reggi is his cast).This organization is mainly based in Iran but this particular man Abdul Malik has been seen around Pak-Afghan border areas around chaghi in Pakistan & Graram Ser, Baramcha & other villages in Afghanistan which were previously under Taliban control but now US/ NATO forces have taken over the majority of the area.Jundollah’s links with any Pak organization are all baseless, there are no Lashkare-Jhangvi or lashkar-e-Tayyeba operating in Balochistan region let alone the remote border areas.Balochistan does not have a very big population almost everybody know everybody else.The relation between the Taliban & Jundollah can be at most that they had previously provided him refuge in their area. These are the talibans of Afghanistan & the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has no influence over here & most probably they don’t have any links with Jundollah.Jundollah has been targeting Iran for like 15 years or more, they are not new every year they do something. Most probably they raise funding through drug trafficking.Impression over here is that he is fighting for the rights of Sunni muslims in Iran in sistan baluchistan area not for any Baloch minority rights & he is not believed to be a big fish as much as media has inflated him in recent days.& yes last attack was maybe his most successful attack ever.


Lets hope they kill each other and save the America the trouble

Posted by Triple C | Report as abusive

Hi to all: I have read with interest the valuable article of Myra and all my friends’ comments. Most of them are informative and knowledgeable. But, there is no thin line between facts and fictions. In this free world every person has a right to own their personal opinion but it is not binding on others. No person is biased but no person is entirely unbiased either. Even judgments of courts have a big bearing on the verdict based upon their inherited likes and dislikes, like it or not but that is that.

My two cents on this valuable article is that Myra has done her best in gathering the facts (Jundillah, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, TTP et al). In fact, she cautiously has put forth the questions (most eminently a tug of war between TTP and Alqaeda groups to form a state within a state). She is right in doing so, because we do not have the proof, we can only speculate based on current events.

Anti-shiite terrorism generally throughout Pakistan and specially in Gilgit/Baltistan and Baluchistan is an old issue and is the by-product of main terrorism. If Pentagon thinks some Pakistani military officers are hand in hand with terrorist groups, Pakistan has a right to question who are funding those terrorists, who are the suppliers of arms and ammunitions to those terrorists. I will not provide a gun to my friend to kill me. Besides Pakistan does not have so much resources to play this video game, Pakistan is already fighting for its economic survival. Those that dream and predict dismembering Pakistan into four pieces must realize that Pakistan is a nuclear state. It is in the interest of the world to see a united and stable Pakistan. Otherwise, there would be a historical nuclear proliferation. I wanted to write two cents but looks like it is now five cents.

Posted by kumayun | Report as abusive

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