Iran claims it has captured 17 “CIA spies” and some have been sentenced to death as the crisis with the West took a dramatic turn.

An intelligence ministry official claims CIA operatives infiltrated “sensitive” and “vital” sectors of Iran – including economic, nuclear, military and cyber sectors – to steal secrets.

Some of those involved in the spy ring were sentenced to execution for being “corrupters”, the ministry added.

Iranian media published names and photos claiming they show “CIA officers” who were in charge of spies in Iran. Two photos show men with their partners and young children.

An Iranian TV documentary allegedly shows a CIA officer recruiting an Iranian man in the United Arab Emirates. And the United States has not yet responded to Tehran’s claims.

An intelligence ministry statement read on Iranian state TV said: “The identified spies were employed in sensitive and vital private sector centres in the economic, nuclear, infrastructural, military and cyber areas… where they collected classified information.”

In the TV documentary about alleged CIA spying, a woman was shown telling an Iranian: “Because there are so many intelligence officers in Dubai.

It is very dangerous… the Iranian intelligence.”

The woman spoke Persian in what sounded like an American accent. 

In June, Tehran claimed it had exposed a large cyber espionage network, alleging it was run by the CIA.

It claimed several US spies had been arrested in different countries as a result of the action.

It was unclear whether that case was linked to Monday’s announcement of 17 arrests.

Hostilities between Iran and the West, mainly the US, have increased after Washington imposed new, tighter sanctions in May.

The sanctions were introduced after President Donald Trump pulled out of a nuclear deal signed by his predecessor Barack Obama.

The deal had provided Iran access to world trade in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

Last week Iran seized a British oil tanker. In recent weeks, the US has accused Iran of seizing several oil tankers in the region, and the Americans and Iranians have shot down each other’s drones.

Britain became involved when the Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar earlier this month as the UK claimed the vessel had violated sanctions on Syria.