Iran’s intelligence ministry claimed Wednesday that agents linked to Israel’s Mossad who were arrested last week were also members of an outlawed Kurdish rebel group who planned to target a “sensitive defense center.”
The ministry had announced on Saturday that it arrested “members of a terrorist organization who work for the Zionist spy agency Mossad and were sent to [Iran] to carry out [a] terrorist operation.”
It did not say how many suspects were arrested, nor did it identify the targets of the purported plots against “sensitive sites,” but alleged that they entered from neighboring Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.
On Wednesday, the intelligence ministry said in a new statement that “the elements of the operating team are members of the Komalah terrorist and mercenary group.”
Komalah is a Marxist group that seeks autonomy for Kurdish-populated regions of northern Iran and has been outlawed since the Islamic revolution of 1979.
The group has periodically clashed with security forces in northwest Iran, which has a sizable Kurdish population.
Iranian intelligence forces in April said they arrested a number of Komalah members in the northwestern province of Kurdistan who were seeking to “cause security problems.”
The ministry on Wednesday published pictures of equipment and weapons allegedly confiscated from those detained.
They showed square-shaped pieces of furniture with “bombs” hidden inside, pistols with silencers and bullets, SD cards hidden in the cap of perfume bottles, oxygen tanks, laptops, mobile phones and cash.
The arrested individuals were aiming to “blow up a sensitive defense industry center in the country,” the statement published on Wednesday said, without identifying the target.
Nour News, a website linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, claimed that the cell entered Iran months ago from Iraqi Kurdistan, after being trained in Africa under the guidance of the Israeli Mossad spy agency.
Iran and Israel have been engaged in a years-long shadow war, with the Islamic republic accusing Israel of carrying out sabotage attacks against its nuclear sites and assassinations of key figures, including scientists.
Tensions have ratcheted up following a string of high-profile incidents that Tehran has blamed on Israel.
The Islamic republic has blamed Israel for the killing of Revolutionary Guards Colonel Sayyad Khodai at his Tehran home on May 22.
Two other Guard members have also died — one in a reported accident and the other while on a mission — earlier this year.
In April, Iran said it arrested three people linked to Mossad and a month earlier claimed it had foiled an attack on a nuclear plant also planned by suspects linked to Israel.
Last month, The New York Times reported that a senior general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was secretly arrested for allegedly spying for Israel. The arrest came about two months after a few dozen security officials involved in Iran’s missile program were arrested for allegedly leaking classified information to Israel, the newspaper said.
In March, missiles were fired toward the US consulate in Iraq’s northern city of Erbil, in the Kurdish region. Iraqi and US officials said the missiles were fired from Iran. Iranian state media agency IRNA, citing local reports, claimed without evidence that “secret Israeli bases” were targeted in the attack.