By Michael Holden
LONDON, Nov. 16 (Reuters) – Iran’s intelligence services have made at least 10 attempts to kidnap or even kill British nationals or individuals based in the United Kingdom whom Tehran considers a threat, the head of Iran said. Britain’s Home Intelligence Service on Wednesday.
Ken McCallum, director-general of the security agency known as MI5, said while Tehran used violence to silence critics at home, its “aggressive intelligence services” also projected a direct threat to Britain.
“At its sharpest, this includes ambitions to kidnap or even kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the regime,” McCallum said in a speech at MI5 headquarters.
“We’ve seen at least 10 such potential threats since January alone.”
Iranian officials were not immediately available for comment.
Last week, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said he had summoned Tehran’s top diplomat over alleged threats by Iranian security forces to journalists in Britain.
Slim said he had made it clear to the diplomat that “we will not tolerate threats to life and harassment of any kind against journalists, or any individual, living in the UK”.
McCallum said Iran’s intelligence services were “a sophisticated adversary” that sometimes operated using their own personnel or courted others to work on their behalf, and at times were willing to take “reckless action.”
“Sometimes they will take that action in Western countries, sometimes they will try to lure people to other parts of the world, including Iran itself,” he said.
On Monday, Britain said it had sanctioned two dozen Iranian officials, including the government’s communications minister and the chief of the cyber police, for the “violent suppression of protests” sparked by the death of a 22-year-old woman in custody of the morality police.
For its part, Iran has accused Western enemies of fueling the widespread protests sparked by the September 16 death of Iranian-Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, which marked one of the boldest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.
The British spy chief’s words also echo similar comments earlier on Wednesday from French President Emmanuel Macron that Iran was becoming increasingly aggressive towards France by detaining its citizens.
Iran said on Wednesday that several French intelligence agents have been arrested in connection with the protests.
“The current wave of protests in Iran poses fundamental questions to the totalitarian regime,” McCallum said. “This could be a signal for profound changes, but the trajectory is uncertain.” (Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Kate Holton, William Maclean)