Iran has captured 17 spies working for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and some have been sentenced to death, Iranian media reported on Monday.
State television quoted the Intelligence Ministry as saying it had broken up a CIA spying ring and captured 17 suspects. They also released what they alleged to be the pictures and contact details of their "handlers" in the US.
The announcement comes after three months of spiralling confrontation with the West that began when new tighter U.S. sanctions took effect at the start of May. Last week Iran captured a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz after Britain's Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar in July 4.
"The identified spies were employed in sensitive and vital private sector centres in the economic, nuclear, infrastructural, military and cyber areas... where they collected classified information," said a ministry statement read on state television.
It was not immediately clear if the arrests were linked to the case in which Iran said in June it had exposed a large cyber espionage network it alleged was run by the CIA, and that several US spies had been arrested in different countries as a result of this action.
Iranian officials have given few concrete details about the alleged CIA network, but reports from June say Iranian intelligence had “penetrated the US safe system in cyberspace,” which the CIA has used “for maintaining communication with spies.”