Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have detained a senior British envoy and other several foreign nationals for alleged acts of spying, as reported by Iran state media on Wednesday.
Identified as Giles Whitaker, the state media mentioned that the UK diplomat was seen taking earth samples from a prohibited area of Iran's Central desert by the IRGC.
The Guards were able to spot the diplomat through their drones at the site as it was very close to the location where they had earlier conducted their aerospace missile exercises, the report mentioned.
"These spies were taking earth samples in Iran's central desert where the Revolutionary Guards' aerospace missile exercises were conducted," state TV said.
Two images were broadcast by the TV channel, in the first one, the 4 detainees were shown in the desert on their bicycles and in the second they were captured collecting samples from the desert, Wion reported.
Among them, one was identified as the spouse of Austria's cultural attachÃ© in Iran. Another was recognized as Maciej Walczak, a university professor in Poland, who came as a tourist.
The video captured by the drone showed Walczak and three others collecting soil samples for a scientific exchange program.
The state media elaborated that this sample collection surprisingly occurred at the same time when a missile test was being conducted in the Kerman province, according to Reuters.
It is believed that all of the arrested individuals, including the British envoy and his family, are expected to be deported as a consequence of participating in this activity.
This is not the first time the IRGC have detained foreigners for spying, numerous foreign and dual nationals have been arrested in the past few years for not only spying but also for some security related issues.
It is however, not clear if the lot is still in custody or not, the state media has also not specified on when the arrest happened.
UK Denies Claim
The British Foreign Office has called these reports as 'completely false,' and Samuel Heath, the UK spokesperson to the United Nations, has denied the claims by tweeting that Whitaker was not posted in Iran anymore.
Britain's Foreign Office said: "Reports of the arrest of a British diplomat in Iran are completely false."
Samuel Heath, UK spokesperson to the United States, tweeted: "He (Mr Whitaker) is not even posted in Iran anymore!"
These arrests come at a time when tensions are already running high between Iran and the United States over attempts to revive a 2015 nuclear deal, which has resulted in the latter imposing harsh sanctions on Tehran.