Security forces in Iran have arrested tens of spies working in state bodies, Intelligence Minister said on Tuesday, at a time of rising tensions between Iran and the West following the re-imposition of US sanctions on Tehran.
Mahmoud Alavi did not say when the arrests took place or which countries the spies allegedly were working for, but indicated that many of the detainees were dual nationals.
"I have repeatedly asked people to inform us if they know any dual national. The intelligence ministry's anti-espionage unit has successfully identified and arrested tens of spies in different governmental bodies," Alavi was quoted as saying by the semi-official news agency ISNA on Tuesday.
The arrest of dual nationals has increased since Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there had been "infiltration" of Western agents in Iranian decision-making bodies.
Reuters reported in 2017 that Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards had arrested at least 30 dual nationals in recent years, mostly on espionage charges.
Tension between Tehran and some Western countries has risen since May when U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from an international nuclear deal with Tehran and reimposed some of the U.S. sanctions that had been lifted after the 2015 accord in return for restrictions on the Iranian nuclear programme.
Iran does not recognise dual nationality and does not routinely announce arrests or charges of dual nationals, whose rights to consular assistance are enshrined in the U.N. Vienna Convention.
Alavi also said that security forces arrested this month a member of ISIS in southern Iran, and had disbanded a "terrorist cell" in the country's north.
He said the intelligence ministry had foiled several bombing plots in metro stations and universities, but did not make any of this public at the time.
Under ISIS' ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim ideology, Shi'ites - the majority in Iran - are considered apostates. Last year, ISIS carried out attacks on the parliament in Tehran and the mausoleum of the founder of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. At least 18 people were killed in the attacks.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
Get Breaking news, live coverage, and Latest News from India and around the world on NDTV.com. Catch all the Live TV action on NDTV 24x7 and NDTV India. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram for latest news and live news updates.