An "Israeli spy" and agents of several other foreign intelligence services have been identified and arrested in a security operation, the director of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry in Iran's Eastern Azerbaijan province announced Monday.
"An Israeli spy has been arrested in Iran's Eastern Azerbaijan province...Other spies who were in contact with several countries' intelligence services have been arrested as well," the official was quoted as saying by local media.
The regional Intelligence Ministry chief did not provide any additional information about the arrested individuals, nor whether or not the suspected "Israeli spy" was an Iranian or Israeli national, only commenting that jihadist militias were not known to be operating in the province.
Individuals charged with espionage in favour of Iran's adversaries often face the death penalty.
Iran's Ministry of Intelligence is the Islamic Republic's main intelligence service and engages in operations both inside and outside the country. Its tasks include defending the country against a range of foreign and domestic threats, including foreign intelligence agencies, jihadist militants, and foreign-backed armed groups seeking the overthrow of the government.
The province of East Azerbaijan is situated in Iran's northwest and borders both Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan to its north. Over 18.5 million Iranian Azerbaijanis live in the country's northwest and the vast majority identify themselves as Iranians, incorporating with the seven other major ethnic groups who consider Iran their home.