RFE/RL IRAN REPORT, Vol. 3, No. 42, 6 November 2000
ORDER IN THE EAST.
October events in northeastern Khorasan Province -- bombings, kidnappings, and assorted mayhem - and in southeastern Sistan va Baluchistan Province - bombings with a possible sectarian linkage - call into question the Iranian government's frequent claims about stability and unity across the country. But Iranian officials have been quick to point out that they have restored order and justice swiftly and that, in any case, foreigners are behind the security problems.
Khorasan Law Enforcement Forces commander Brigadier- General Nowruzi said that 21 bandits were killed in firefights around Birjand, Qayen, Torbat-i Heidarieh, and Sarakhs, "Jam-i Jam" reported on 28 October and state radio reported the next day. Although weapons, cash, gold, and drugs were seized, according to Nowruzi, the bodies were left in the mountains. Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Colonel Kargar, who leads the Kashmar LEF, announced that bandit leader Sattar had been killed in the region's Kuhsorkh Heights, state television reported on 29 October. Also, 62 kidnapping victims were rescued.
The IRGC is ready to step in if the situation in the northeast gets any worse. IRGC commander Major-General Yahya Rahim-Safavi, in a 30 October interview with state television, said that "until recently, we had a mission in the northeast which has now been transferred to the Law Enforcement Force...However, in some regions in the northeastern region where there are crises we can enter into action."
General Nowruzi also said that a search of the bandits' corpses revealed that they all had firearms licenses and safe-passage permits issued by Afghanistan's Taliban. This points to "direct cooperation between these bandits and elements within the Taliban forces," he said. As for the problems in Sistan va Baluchistan, senior IRGC Commander-General Abdul Mohammad Raufinejad said these "mischievous moves" were linked with the (unidentified) enemy's cultural offensive. Raufinejad told Basijis in Zahedan, the province's capital, that "the enemy has opened a new front against the Islamic revolution," IRNA reported on 29 October.
Some observers believe that instability in the east has been exaggerated by hardline media. Hojatoleslam Kashmiri, the Friday prayer leader of Kashmar, said during a recent sermon that the problems are real. He added that arming the local Basij Resistance Forces has improved the situation and the local LEF should have more resources. And Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Meshkini-Qomi, the Friday prayer leader in Qom, which also is facing increasing criminality and rising drug addiction rates, said that "our people expect our officials to work harder to make them feel secure." (Bill Samii)
Copyright (c) 2000. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. http://www.rferl.org
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