British spy chief: Iran tried 10 times to kidnap or kill UK-linked individuals

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 regarded by Tehran as a threat,  the head of Britain's domestic spy agency said on Wednesday.

Ken  McCallum, Director General of the Security Service known as MI5, said  while Tehran was using violence to silence critics at home, its  "aggressive intelligence services" were also projecting a threat to  Britain directly.

"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's headquarters.

"We have 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 most senior diplomat over alleged threats by Iranian security  forces to journalists in Britain.

Cleverly said he had made clear  to the diplomat that "we do not tolerate threats to life and  intimidation of any kind towards journalists, or any individual, living  in the UK".

McCallum said the Iranian intelligence services were  "a sophisticated adversary" who sometimes operated using their own staff  or courted others to work on their behalf, and sometimes they were  prepared to take "reckless action".

"At times they will take that  action in Western countries, at times they will seek 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 its  cyber police over the "violent repression of protests" sparked by the  death of a 22-year-old woman in the custody of the morality police.

For  its part, Iran has accused Western foes of stoking the widespread  protests ignited by the death of Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini on  Sept. 16 which have marked one of the boldest challenges to the Islamic  Republic since the 1979 revolution.

The British spy chief's words  also echo similar remarks earlier on Wednesday from French President  Emmanuel Macron that Iran was being increasingly aggressive towards  France by detaining its citizens.

Iran said on Wednesday several French intelligence agents had been arrested in connection with the protests.

"The  current wave of protests in Iran is asking fundamental questions of the  totalitarian regime," McCallum said. "This could signal profound  change, but the trajectory is uncertain."