Iran claims to arrest ‘mercenaries’ for Israel behind Isfahan drone attack

Tehran says it caught ‘main actors of failed attempt to sabotage’ defense site last month

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows damage on the roof of an Iranian military workshop, center, after a drone attack in Isfahan, Iran, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows damage on the roof of an Iranian military workshop, center, after a drone attack in Isfahan, Iran, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

Iran’s intelligence ministry said on Friday it had arrested the “main actors” involved in a drone attack last month on a defense ministry site in central Isfahan province.

“The main actors of the failed attempt to sabotage one of the industrial centers of the Ministry of Defense in Isfahan were identified and arrested,” a joint statement by the intelligence ministry and the intelligence organization of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps read.

“Due to the ongoing investigation in the case of the arrested accused, additional information will be published at the appropriate time,” the statement added.

“In short, the involvement of mercenaries of the temporary Zionist regime [Israel] in that action has been proven,” it added.

Iranian authorities reported an “unsuccessful” drone attack on January 28 that targeted a defense ministry “workshop complex” in Isfahan.

An anti-aircraft system destroyed one drone and two others exploded, the defense ministry said at the time, adding that there were no casualties and only minor damage to the site.

The Iranian intelligence agencies also warned that “the act of violating the sacred sanctity of the Islamic Republic will have additional punishment and will be met with a lesson-learning reaction from the guardians of the security of powerful Iran.”

Screengrab from an unverified video circulating on social media said to show an explosion at a defense facility in Iran’s Isfahan after an alleged drone strike, January 28, 2023. (Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Earlier this month, Iran’s envoy to the United Nations accused Israel of being behind the drone attack.

The Nour News Agency, considered close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, also accused Iraq-based Kurdish groups of involvement.

Iran has been engaged in a shadow war with Israel for years, with Tehran accusing Israel of being behind a series of sabotage attacks and assassinations targeting its nuclear program, carried out alongside the United States.

Iran’s Intelligence Ministry in July claimed to have broken up a plot to target sensitive sites around Isfahan. A segment aired on Iranian state TV in October included purported confessions by alleged members of Komala, a Kurdish opposition party that is exiled from Iran and now dwells in Iraq, that they planned to target a military aerospace facility in Isfahan after being trained by Israel’s Mossad intelligence service.

It remains unclear whether the military workshop targeted in the drone attack was that aerospace facility. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the satellite images and other questions about the workshop.

Satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press earlier this month showed damage to the roof of the site.

AP contributed to this report

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