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Iranian officials claim Israeli-backed terrorism team busted

April 10, 2012 |  2:00 pm

REPORTING FROM TEHRAN -- Iranian state media reported Tuesday that a team of terrorist "devils" backed by Israel had been identified and arrested by Iranian security forces.

The Iranian Intelligence Ministry claimed it had busted "a major network of terrorism and sabotage," saying the group was planning attacks on Iranian targets, PressTV reported.

Bombs, machine guns, military communications gear and other equipment were reportedly seized.

"The complicated and months-long measures and moves made by the Iranian intelligence forces to identify the devils led to the discovery of the Zionists' regional command center in one of the regional countries," the semi-official Fars News Agency quoted a statement from the ministry as saying.

Iran, a longtime foe of Israel, has repeatedly accused Israel and the United States of orchestrating the assassinations of its nuclear scientists, an alleged attempt to slow its disputed nuclear program. Five such attacks have occurred in the last two years, including a January bombing in Tehran that Iranian officials blamed on Israel.

The alleged network was reportedly based in a country near Iran, but it was unclear which one. There has been recent media speculation about ties between Israel and nearby Azerbaijan: An article in Foreign Policy concluded Israel had been eyeing Azerbaijan as an access point to Iran, quoting unnamed U.S. officials. Israel declined to comment on that report when it was released.

The Iranian ministry said it would release more details on the arrests later. Tehran sometimes announces the capture of alleged U.S. or Israeli spies only to fall silent about them later, a phenomenon that has fueled some skepticism over the claimed busts.

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-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

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