Monday, March 1, 2010

Kyrgyzstan Denies Rigi Was Removed from Its Aircraft

The Kyrgyz foreign ministry today denied that any foreign nationals had been removed from the flight between Dubai and Bishkek once it had been grounded in Iran.

"Information... published in some media about the detention of foreign nationals on board the Kyrgyzstan Airlines aircraft does not correspond with reality," the foreign ministry statement said [AFP, 1 March].

The strange denial by Kyrgyzstan adds to the mystery surrounding Rigi’s arrest. Iran’s interior minister had already contradicted the official version by saying that Rigi was arrested in a foreign country and then brought back to Iran. The Pakistani ambassador in Tehran has also claimed that Rigi’s arrest could not have happened without his country’s direct involvement.

Some Iran watchers now believe that Rigi was arrested by Pakistani ISI and transported to Iran aboard a Pakistani falcon corporate jet. The forced landing of the Kyrgyz jet in Bandar Abbas could then be a diversion tactic to mask the arrest by ISI.

In a related development, the Kyrgyz government launched a protest with Iran for forcing one of its passenger planes to land in its territory.

"Kyrgyz ambassador Medetkan Sherimkulov met with the deputy foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran and protested on the inadmissibility of such actions from the Iranian side," the Kyrgyz foreign ministry statement said.


Mark Pyruz said...

Pakistan's Air Force operates a Dassault Falcon (Mystere) 20F . But the video and stills of the Dassault Falcon (Mystere) 20E carrying Rigi is clearly an IRIAF aircraft. See here for a file photo of such an aircraft. Note the exact same paint scheme.

Nader, what evidence can you point to, regarding "some Iran watchers" belief in Pakistan specifically using a falcon corporate jet to transport Rigi into Iran?

Mark Pyruz said...

And here, Dubai's foreign ministry admitted that Rigi made a 2 hour stopover in Dubai.

According to Sultan al-Ali, Director of Media Affairs at the Ministry:

"He made a two-hour stop-over in Dubai as he arrived from Kabul en route to Kyrgyzstan."

Anonymous said...

Mr Pyruz

The UAE government does NOT say that "Rigi made a 2-hour stopover in Dubai." It says ""the man, whose name appears in the visa shown by the media, had never entered the country," and transited through airport.

The Visa form is the 4th image in your earlier article about this matter. It has clealy not been issued for Rigi and has a photo of a different person.

According to official sources in Iran (as relayed by the 'authorized' website Tabnak) this is the image of a visa form belonging to a Rigi associate called only "Hamzah."

No other mention of this elusive "accomplice" has been made elsewhere in the official version of events, and he clearly is not there on the Falcon aircraft.

So, the UAE statement does not prove that Rigi transited through their territory.

And, does it really matter whether it was a Pakistani or Iranian Falcon that brought Rigi from Pakistan to Iran, or that he simply was handed over across the land border and then taken to the Falcon for the benefit of cameras?

The fact is that (a) Iran's Interior Minister Najjar said Rigi was arrested abroad and handed over
(b) Pakistan ambassador to Tehran said they were crucial in his capture
(c) Kyrgyzstan says no-one was arrested on their airliner
(d) No film image has been published by Tehran of Rigi being taken off the Kyrgyz airliner
(e) Various other discrepancies in the official versions of events.

Mark Pyruz said...


- The ID matches a man in transit from Afghanistan to Dubai to Kyrgyzstan, confirmed by Dubai.

- AFP reports a Manas airport official stating a Kyrgyzstan plane was forced to land by Iran Air Force "fighter bombers", detained in Iran and two individuals removed from the plane.

- Kyrgyzstan reported 4 days ago that its plane was detained in Bandar Abbas and two individuals removed from the plane.

- Journalist Wayne Madsen claims US Ambassador Holbrooke was to meet Rigi in Kyrgyzstan, where the ambassador was on a state visit.

- Rigi confesses that he was to meet US officials in Kyrgyzstan.

- After Ambassador Holbrooke leaves Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyzstan's foreign ministry contradicts the earlier statement; now claiming that no foreign nationals were removed from its aircraft.

The Pakistan Falcon jet is relevant to this post. What specific evidence is there to support this claim?

So far, what we have is a flip flop in stories out of Kyrgyzstan, coming on the heels of Ambassador Holbrooke's state visit.

BTW: Using separate travel aircraft/vehicles for dangerous terrorists/criminals is in no way unusual. In fact, it's SOP.

A case of high stakes international political intrigue! Bottom line: wanted terrorist Rigi is in custody, which is the essential element of this whole affair.

Mark Pyruz said...

Now Press TV further contributes to the intrigue:

"Informed sources have told Press TV that Rigi and his deputy were travelling with several Kyrgyz security guards."

I'm beginning to wonder if this denial has something more to do with international law. With Kyrgyzstan officials now- rather nonchalantly- stating that no foreign nationals were removed from the flight, legally the only issue at hand is the detention of the flight. What this position might signal is an attempt at shutting down the need for a further (unwanted) investigation that would officially involve and make accountable Kyrgyzstan in the affair- i.e. from their end they washed their hands of the whole thing.

A legal expert on this type of international law should be consulted. However, at the moment, Western media doesn't appear to be particularly interested.

Nader Uskowi said...

There are indeed big holes in the official explanations so far on all sides, Iran's official story being just one of them!

I like to know what Najar meant, that's crucial. Was he arrested inside Pakistan (which could not have happened without ISI)? There are web report that he was arrested in a hospital there.

Mark, on Iran watchers, I know couple of former high-ranking officials of Iran who believe ISI was behind the arrest. What evidence do you want me to point to? Analysis of Iran watchers differ on many subjects. I, personally, have not made my mind on this issue yet, too many conflicting information. We all need to watch this in the coming days.

Kemjika said...

the US just got 0wned on this one!lol.The fact that dubai is collaborating Iran's story gives it more "cogency"( to show some of the vocab:) ). Also, the story says Iran first scrambled 1 fighter jet, then they had to send 2 more. How could Pakistan and iran collude to such a level. This guy is an iranian sunni terrorist who is flirting with Pakistan-Iran wants that party shut down!

Nader Uskowi said...

One more angel to review: there are daily commercial flights between Kabul and Bishkek. If Rigi was in Kabul the day before his departure, as claimed by Tehran, couldn't he boarded one of those commercial flights to Bishkek? Did he have to go back to Pakistan, then Dubai, then fly over Iranian airspace (the flight route is public info) then to Bishkek? It doesn't make sense.

The main point, however, is that Rigi is in Iranian custody. If the Iranians made up all the dramatic events, it is to their discredit. They didn't have to do it, but don't they always overplay their hands?

Mark Pyruz said...

Oh boy, so I'm expected to validate the Iranian story. Not an enviable task! But here goes:

First, let's sort out your claims, Nader.

- Where is the evidence of specifically a Pakistani "Dassault Falcon (Mystere) 20F" being used to transport Rigi? Any source will do. Name and/or photo with specific details, please.

- Where can I find a daily commercial flight schedule between Kabul (KBL) and Bishkek (FRU)? I just tried looking up multiple dates on various carriers and failed. Google search refers me to Dubai! Not saying you're wrong here, but please point the way for a daily commercial schedule.

Now, let's sort out the claims cited by non-Iranian sources:

- Dubai officially states that a person with the Pakistani ID name provided by Iran was at Dubai airport for a two hour stopover, between Kabul-Dubai-Bishkek.

- A Bishkek airport official stated to AFP that a Dubai-Bishkek flight was forced to land in Iran by Iran Air Force "fighter bombers" and two passengers were removed.

- A random eyewitness on the Dubai-Bishkek flight reported seeing an Iranian fighter jet forcing the plane down in Iran and two passengers were removed from the plane, before allowing it to continue to Bishkek.

- Kyrgyzstan's initial response was to state that Iran had forced its plane down in Iran and removed two passengers, before allowing it to continue to Bishkek.


- Why would the Bishkek airport official lie to AFP?

- Why would Kyrgyzstan's initial response represent a lie?

- Why would a random eyewitness lie to a Western reporter?

As for the gossipy, initially inconsistent stories coming from Iranian political sources, are we to be surprised by this? If anything, had the stories been totally consistent, this itself would have been highly unusual and suspect!

Anyway, Nader, I've given it my best shot here.

There is one other comment to make on this whole affair. Many observers have claimed that the IRIAF is technically deficient to the point where it can no longer perform reliable intercept missions. Well, the Rigi B-737 incident goes a long way in disproving that!

Anonymous said...

Iran is waiting for the US to release a statement about how Riggi was arrested, then Iran shall release their version on film....

Remember the Ship harrasment thing in the Persian Gulf, ?? Iran waited for the US to make their fantastic claims of attacks on their warships, then Iran released a harmless communiction film that actually happemed and all was fine and the US was embarrased ;) looking like a lying "pinokio"

wouldn't be surprised if it were the same this time.
Bless Iran

Nader Uskowi said...


You did not need to validate Iran’s claims! There are so many unknowns that need some time to sort out. You asked me two questions:

1. If ISI arrested Rigi, which is only an if, he could have been transferred in an Iranian falcon. The question is not if the plane was Iranian or Pakistani, but if ISI was involved in the arrest. Do you have any information that positively show ISI was not involved, aside from Iran’s own claim?

2. There are commercial flights to Turkmenistan and on to Bishkek. Also there are military air services between the two points. The question is, if the US was arranging the Rigi’s meetings in Bishkek, and he was already in Kabul, didn’t make sense for him to take a different route, either commercial or military to Kyrgyzstan?

Again, I do not expect anyone to have the answers to all the questions raised on this affair, at least for some time to come (along with the intriguing Najar’s claim that Rigi was arrested in a foreign country). The important piece of the news is Rigi’s arrest, notwithstanding the method.

Anonymous said...


How much "efficiency" does it need for a couple of fighter aircraft to approach a scheduled airliner?

The Iranian ATC would have known the exact course, altitude, heading, waypoints and ETA of the Kyrgyz airliner and with this data, the fighters could easily have been vectored to intercept it like a sitting duck.

Any intercepting aircraft would not even have needed a working radar to buzz an airliner under these circumstances.

Whether IRIAF is a credible fighting force or not, this incident (if it did actually take place) does not prove it either way.

Another Kyrgyz Denial said...

Have they completely lost the plot in Tehran?

One day after Kyrgyzstan foreign ministry denied that a foreign person was arrested on their airliner that was forced to land in Iran, today Iran's main English-language mouthpiece - PressTV - put out an item (which has been widely carried by others), claiming that the Kyrgyz ambassador to Tehran has been "summoned" to the foreign ministry to receive Tehran's protest about the Kyrgyz denial.

Now, the Kyrgyz government has issued another statement saying that their ambassador was not in fact summoned:

At the same time, the PressTV piece claims that a video clip purportedly shows Rigi's capture on the Kyrgyz airliner, but it does not show the video, and instead just republishes the old photo of Rigi on the Falcon aircraft. Has anyone seen this aleged film?

So, what is happening in Tehran? Now they are sniping at Kyrgyzstan. So far, the regime has blamed Pakistan, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Israel, USA, UK and NATO for backing Rigi's rather small gang. Now, it is Kyrgyztan too.

It seems that Rigi's gang has more top-rank sponsors than members! And still they don't give him a bucket seat on a C-5 from Kabul to Bishkek so he has to travel tourist class across Iran, only to be brought down by the eagles of IRIAF at the command of the Intelligence Minister Moslehi!!

The most credible news today was from Fars News (IRGC outlet), which reported that a state film production company was going to make a feature film based on Rigi's capture.

With the script already written, their work is half done :-)

Mark Pyruz said...

Too many conditional variable inputs.

Nader, with all due respect, you've altered your previous claims to make them suitable as a basis of dispute. Now, in their current form:

- Yes, it's possible an IRIAF plane could have retrieved Rigi in Pakistan but not Kabul.

- I believe the Dubai route is more frequent and in certain ways more reliable than the Turkmenistan route.

@Anon 11:23
There have been a number of coalition intrusions of Iranian airspace, as well as cases in the not too distant past, in certain areas, where Iranian ATC has been unable to afford meaningful assistance to requests from commercial flight crews. Add to this aircraft parts shortages, and the unknown quality of IRIPF air and ground crews since the Imposed War, and some observers are only too quick to right off the entire IRIAF organization. Granted the intercept was not a combat situation, still the intercept is in its own right a successful mission.

I read that in PressTV, also. It will be interesting to see if a tape is made public.

I don't entirely buy into the potential US military transport scenario, only because during the Cold War there were many cases of US and NATO involvement with Soviet based dissidents and spys, where US military aircraft were not involved in their transport.

Anyway, gentlemen, I submit we have reached a state of analysis paralysis.

Nitin said...

The roundabout way of handing over Rigi might have come at Pakistan's behest.

If they'd handed the guy over simply, they'd have to deal with cognitive dissonance---India has been asking for terrorists too, and on that front, Pakistan has been taking India on a wild-goose chase through its legal system.