Azerbaijan’s security forces have arrested 39 people suspected of being part of an Iranian spy network that carried out “acts of sabotage” and used religion to push pro-Iranian propaganda, local media reported.
The government APA news agency reported on February 1 that the suspects were arrested as a result of an operation conducted by the Interior Ministry.
The suspects have spread "propaganda in favor of Iran" on social media, "abused the freedom of religious belief and fulfilled the tasks of the Iranian special services in order to undermine the traditions of tolerance formed in Azerbaijan,” according to the report.
Tehran has not commented on the reported arrests, which come amid mounting tensions between neighboring Azerbaijan and Iran.
The Azerbaijani government ordered the evacuation of staff and family members from its embassy in Tehran on January 29, two days after a gunman shot dead a security guard and wounded two other people at the diplomatic mission in an attack described by Baku as an "act of terrorism."
On January 31, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry issued a travel warning for Iran, advising Azerbaijanis not to visit the neighboring country “unless necessary." It cited “the unstable situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran and the terrorist attack against the diplomatic mission of our country.”
Azerbaijani officials say the shooting at the embassy was the result of Tehran failing to heed its calls for better security.
Iranian authorities have said they had arrested the gunman who appeared to have had a personal, not a political, motive for the attack.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called for "a comprehensive investigation" of the incident.
Also on February 1, APA news agency reported that 36 people were detained and “114 kilograms of various narcotic drugs” were seized in an operation by Azerbaijan’s Interior Ministry against “henchmen of Iranian drug lords in Azerbaijan.”