Iran arrests separatists with 'links' to British intelligence

August 16, 2005 20:37 IST

Iran has claimed that it had arrested anti-government separatists with links to British intelligence services, accusing them of involvement in violent protests and a recent spate of deadly bombings.

A statement issued on state-run TV on Tuesday did not say how many people had been detained nor reveal their nationalities, but alleged they were arrested in the southwestern Khuzestan province, which borders British-controlled southern Iraq.

"The agents arrested have confessed to belonging to separatist opposition groups and having links with foreign, especially British intelligence services," a TV announcer said, quoting a ministry statement. British Embassy officials in Tehran could not be reached immediately for comment.

The statement added that Intelligence Ministry forces had identified and arrested "all those involved in recent bombings and unrest in Khuzestan." It did not say when the arrests took place.

In June, four bomb blasts rocked oil-rich Khuzestan's capital, Ahvaz, killing 8 people and injuring many more. The bombings were the deadliest in Iran in more than a decade, and seriously damaged government buildings.

Ahvaz was also the site of two days of violent protests during April, triggered by false rumours of an alleged plan to decrease the proportion of Arabs in the area. Officials at the time confirmed one death but opposition groups said more than 20 demonstrators had been killed while some 250 were arrested.