Iran used fake Instagram accounts to try to kidnap Israeli citizens

Israeli spy agencies accused Iran on Monday of using fake social media accounts to lure citizens of the Jewish state abroad “to harm or kidnap them”. The Israeli claim came hours after Iran accused its arch-enemy of orchestrating an attack on a key nuclear site and vowed “revenge”.

A statement from Israel’s domestic security agency Shin Bet said it and international intelligence service Mossad uncovered a “method” by which “Iranian intelligence operatives” used fake Instagram profiles of women “seemingly engaged in business and tourism” to target Israelis. According to a statement released Monday, Iranian intelligence has contacted dozens of Israeli men via fake Instagram accounts, drawing them to meet women all over the world hoping to kidnap them. Operatives would use the profiles to reach out to Israelis with international business contacts and try “to draw them into romantic or commercial meetings” in countries around the world, the statement added. The Israeli intelligence organisations were “genuinely concerned” the Iranian activities “could lead to attempts to harm or kidnap Israelis in those countries”, the Shin Bet said, noting that a similar tactic was used by Iran against regime opponents in Europe. The fake accounts portraying women of various ages and ethnicities have been monitored by the Israeli spy agencies.

Tensions between Iran and Israel have risen over recent weeks, with the foes trading attacks on each other’s commercial vessels, according to reports. On Monday, Iran said a “small explosion” had hit its Natanz uranium enrichment plant’s electricity distribution centre the day before in what the foreign ministry labelled an Israeli act of “terrorism”.