Seventeen Iranian nationals allegedly recruited by the CIA to spy on Iran’s nuclear and military sites have been arrested, Teheran said on Monday, adding that some of them had already been sentenced to death.The arrests took place over the past months and those taken into custody worked on 'sensitive sites' in the country’s military and nuclear facilities, an Iranian intelligence official said.
He did not say how many of them had received the death sentence or say when the sentences were handed down.The announcement comes as Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers is unraveling and tensions have risen in the Persian Gulf region. The crisis stems from the decision by the US president, Mr. Donald Trump, to pull the US out of the deal last year and intensify sanction on the country.
'The Report of Iran capturing CIA spies is totally false,' Mr. Donald Trump tweeted. 'Zero truth. Just more lies and propaganda (like their shot down drone) put out by a Religious Regime that is Badly Failing and has no idea what to do. Their Economy is dead, and will get much worse. Iran is a total mess!'On Friday Tehran denied a claim by Mr. Trump that a US warship had brought down one of its drones. Last month Iran shot down a US drone.
Mr. Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, also dismissed Iran’s announcement. 'The Iranian regime has a long history of lying,' Mr. Pompeo said.The Iranian official who made the claim did not give his name but was identified as the director of the counterespionage department of Iran’s intelligence ministry. Such a procedure is highly unusual in Iran; officials usually identify themselves at press conferences. It is also rare for intelligence officials to appear before the media.
The official claimed that none of the 17, who allegedly had 'sophisticated training', had succeeded in their sabotage missions. Their spying missions included collecting information at the facilities they worked at, carrying out technical and intelligence activities and transferring and installing monitoring devices, he said.