BEIRUT (Reuters) - The leader of a Sunni militant group in southeast Iran responsible for attacks against security forces and civilian targets has been killed, Iran’s intelligence minister Mahmoud Alavi was quoted as saying on Thursday by state media.
Hesham Azizi, also known as Abu Hafs al Baloushi, was the head of the Ansar al Furqan militant organization, according to the SITE intelligence group.
Iran’s restive Sistan and Baluchestan province, in the southeast of the country on the borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan, is home to the Balouch minority and has long been a hotbed of Sunni militant activity against the Shi’ite-dominated government of the Islamic Republic.
The province, one of Iran’s most impoverished, is also part of a well-known drug trafficking route.
Baloushi organized 12-member teams to carry out attacks across the country in exchange for payment of $500,000, Alavi said, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency. A number of other members of the teams have been arrested.
Alavi did not provide any information about the circumstances of Baloushi’s death.
Ansar al Furqan is a splinter group of Jundallah, a militant group that also carried out several attacks in the province, according to the Mashregh news site which is close to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
Abdolmalek Rigi, the head of Jundallah, was captured and executed by Iranian authorities in 2010.
Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Dominic Evans