Iran says Israel-linked agents planned attack on defence plant

·2 min read

(Reuters) - Iran said on Wednesday a sabotage team detained by its security forces were Kurdish militants working for Israel who planned to blow up a "sensitive" defence industry centre in the city of Isfahan, state media reported.

Iran's Intelligence Ministry had announced the arrests on Saturday amid heightening tensions with arch-enemy Israel over Tehran's nuclear programme, without giving the nationality of those detained.

The ministry said in a statement carried by state media that those detained belonged to the Iranian Kurdish opposition group Komala who had been recruited by Israel's spy agency, Mossad, and given high explosives for the attack.

The Israeli prime minister's office, which oversees Mossad, declined to comment on the ministry's first announcement on the arrests on Saturday.

Iran, which often voices concern over the alleged presence of Mossad in the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region, attacked the area with ballistic missiles in March saying it targeted Israeli "strategic centres." Tehran suggested it was revenge for Israeli air strikes that killed Iranian military personnel in Syria.

The Iraqi Kurdish regional government said the attack targeted civilian residential areas, not sites belonging to foreign countries, and called for an international probe.

Earlier this month, U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid signed a joint pledge to deny Iran nuclear arms. Tehran says its nuclear programme is peaceful and denies seeking nuclear weapons.

Separately, an Iranian news agency close to the hardline Revolutionary Guards suggested on Wednesday that Iran should target the Albania-based Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) exiled opposition group with drones and missiles.

"(Using) Iran's offensive drones and ballistic missiles to hit the MEK headquarters in Albania faces no legal prohibition, and Tehran's authorities should put military action on the agenda after issuing the necessary warning to the Albanian government," Fars news agency said.

The MEK's umbrella group last week postponed a meeting in Albania, saying it was done at the request of Albanian officials due to security concerns. The U.S. Embassy in Tirana had separately warned on Twitter about a "potential threat" targeting the meeting.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; additional reporting by Fatos Bytyci in Pristina; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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