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Iran’s Intelligence Ministry on Monday said it uncovered a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency spy ring, arrested 17 suspects and sentenced some to death, according to a report from the country’s semi-official news agency said.
Emails from Fox News to the CIA and the State Department were not immediately returned.
An Iranian intelligence official told a press conference in Tehran that the arrests occurred over the past months. The official 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.
“The identified spies were employed in sensitive and vital private sector centers in the economic, nuclear, infrastructural, military and cyber areas… where they collected classified information,” said a ministry statement read on state television.
Fars news agency was first to report on the matter, according to Reuters. The identities of those arrested were not immediately known.
The U.S. has increased its military presence in the Persian Gulf region in recent weeks after it alleged provocative moves by Tehran that included attacks on two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, the downing of a U.S. drone and the seizure of a British tanker.
The Associated Press contributed to this report