Thousands of people were arrested after deadly riots in Iran, according to one lawmaker. The government claims some of the detainees received "CIA-funded training" under the cover of becoming citizen-journalists.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei slammed a "conspiracy" behind this month's riots, pointing the finger at "Zionists" and "global arrogance" — a phrase he often uses to refer to the US.
"A deep, vast and very dangerous conspiracy that a lot of money had been spent on ... was destroyed by the people," the ayatollah said on Wednesday, addressing the all-volunteer Basij force of the Revolutionary Guard, which helped suppress the protests.
He praised Basij and other security forces for their handling of the unrest.
The intelligence ministry claimed at least eight people linked with the CIA have been arrested during the events.
"These elements had received CIA-funded training in various countries under the cover of becoming citizen reporters," the state news agency IRNA quoted the ministry as claiming.
"Six were arrested while attending the riots and carrying out (CIA) orders, and two while trying to ... send information abroad," a ministry statement claimed.
Broadcasters who cover the unrest from abroad use the phrase "citizen reporters" to describe people providing information from the scene.
The moderate president Hassan Rouhani also blamed the US for the protests and accused Washington of sending money to spark the demonstrations. He slammed violent demonstrators as "mercenaries" and "hooligans."
Iran denies Amnesty's death toll
Iran has yet to announce an official death toll on the wide-spread violence prompted by a fuel price hike. Tehran has rejected the estimate provided by the Amnesty International activists, who says at least 143 people were killed in the unrest, but did not provide their own figures. Independent information has been scarce after the government imposed a nation-wide internet blackout.
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said up to 200,000 people took part in the unrest, IRNA reported on Wednesday.
More than 7,000 people have been arrested in the protests, said Iranian lawmaker Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, a member of the nation's national security and foreign policy committee, in remarks cited by the moderate Entekhab news outlet.
Residents and state media said it was now possible to use mobile internet in Tehran and several other areas on Wednesday, following a partial return of fixed-line internet earlier this week.
dj/aw (Reuters, AP)