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September 9, 2008

Lebanonwire

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Iran rebels free kidnapped policeman

TEHRAN - A Sunni rebel group has released one of a group of Iranian policemen it said it kidnapped in southeastern Iran in June, a police commander said on Tuesday.

The Jundullah (Soldiers of God) group said they captured 16 Iranian border policemen on June 12 at a checkpoint in Saravan, in restive Sistan-Baluchestan province, before taking them across the border into Pakistan.

"The terrorist group called Jundullah released one of our policemen a few days ago and he has returned home," said the deputy chief of Iranian police, Colonel Hossein Zolfaghari on state-run television's website.

"Based on his account, the rest of the kidnapped police are alive," he added.

The group said last month they have killed several of the hostages and vowed to carry out two more executions each week unless Tehran agreed to their demands for the release of 200 of the group's detained fighters.

Zolfaghari, quoted by Fars news agency, said the number of policemen seized was 15 and not 16 as reported by the rebel group. Iran made no concession for the policeman's release, he said.

He also accused Pakistani authorities of "not being serious in releasing the rest of the kidnapped police".

The group has been blamed for a string of attacks and kidnappings in Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan province, which is home to a large ethnic Baluch community and straddles the border with Pakistan.

Jundullah leader Abdolmalek Rigi said last month the group was ready for talks with the Tehran government, offering to law down its arms if the Sunni minority in predominantly Shiite Iran was granted full political rights. -AFP

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