Iran captured 17 spies working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and some have been sentenced to death, Iranian media reported on Monday.
Iranian state television published images it said showed the CIA officers who were in touch with the suspected spies.
U.S. President Donald Trump categorically denied the arrests on Monday, calling the reports “totally false.”
“The Report of Iran capturing CIA spies is totally false. Zero truth. Just more lies and propaganda (like their shot down drone) put out by a Religious Regime that is Badly Failing and has no idea what to do,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
There was no immediate comment on the Iranian allegations by the CIA, but U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismissed the claim in an interview on Fox News.
“The Iranian regime has a long history of lying,” Pompeo said.
Iran announced in June that it had broken up an alleged CIA spy ring but it was unclear whether Monday’s announcement was linked to the same case.
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The announcement comes after three months of spiraling confrontation between Iran and the West that began when new tighter U.S. sanctions took effect in May.
Trump has said publicly he would meet with Iranian leaders to make an agreement on nuclear and other security issues, but Tehran has rebuffed such offers, saying it is not open to talks with sanctions still in place.
Last week Iran captured a British tanker after Britain’s Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker on July 4.
In a statement read on state television, the Ministry of Intelligence said 17 spies were arrested during the Iranian calendar year that ended in March 2019.
“The identified spies were employed in sensitive and vital private sector centers in the economic, nuclear, infrastructure, military and cyber areas… where they collected classified information,” read the ministry statement.
In a separate report, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted a Ministry of Intelligence official as saying some of those arrested had been sentenced to death.
An Iranian television documentary aired on Monday purported to show a CIA officer recruiting an Iranian man in the United Arab Emirates.
“Because there are so many intelligence officers in Dubai. It is very dangerous… Iranian intelligence,” a woman was shown telling an Iranian in the documentary about alleged CIA spying in Iran which was broadcast on state television.
The woman spoke Persian with an accent which appeared to be American.