The Bushehr nuclear power plant, south of Tehran.
The Bushehr nuclear power plant, south of Tehran. Photo by Reuters
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Iran has arrested a "network of spies" linked to Israel's Mossad intelligence service which it blames for the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist in 2010, Iran's state television reported on Monday.

Tensions are running high between Iran and Israel, which has not ruled out military strikes on the Islamic Republic if diplomatic efforts fail to resolve a row over Tehran's nuclear program.

Iran has vowed to retaliate for any strikes with missile strikes on Israel and U.S. targets in the Gulf.

"The Intelligence Ministry ... has identified and arrested members of a spy and terrorist network linked to the Zionist regime," state television quoted a statement issued by the
ministry as saying. Iran does not recognize the state of Israel

"The network of spies and terrorists linked to ... Mossad was destroyed. The network was behind the assassination of Masoud Ali-Mohammadi."

State television later aired footage of an unidentified young man who it said was the "main element" behind the assassination of the scientist.

The man said Israeli officers trained him in a military base near Tel Aviv in surveillance and counter-surveillance techniques, as well as how to collect "information from a
specific place and sticking a bomb under a car."

A remote-controlled bomb killed the Tehran University scientist in Tehran on Jan. 12 last year. Iran blamed the United States and Israel for the killing of Ali-Mohammadi, a charge Washington has rejected as "absurd".

Death penalty

The Intelligence Ministry statement said Israel had used European, non-European and some neighboring countries to carry out the assassination plot.

Western sources have said Ali-Mohammadi, a physics professor, worked closely with Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi and Fereydoun Abbassi-Davani. Both were named in UN sanctions resolutions because of their work on suspected nuclear weapons
development.

Another Iranian nuclear scientist was killed on Nov. 29 by a car bomb in Tehran and Iranian officials called it an Israeli or U.S.-sponsored attack on its atomic program.

Iran and Israel have been arch-enemies since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, and Tehran periodically announces arrests of people suspected of spying for Israel.

Under Iran's penal code, imposed since its 1979 Islamic revolution, espionage can carry the death penalty. In December Iran hanged an Iranian man convicted of spying for Israel.

Another Iranian man was hanged in 2008 for allegedly working with Mossad. Israel denied any link to the case.

Tehran often accuses Israel and the United States of trying to destabilize the Islamic Republic, which has been hit by international sanctions for refusing to suspend its uranium enrichment-related activities.

Israel, believed to be the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, the United States and its allies, accuse Iran of using a civilian nuclear program as cover to build atomic weapons.

Iran denies the charge, saying it wants to use nuclear power to generate electricity.