Tehran(ANN)-Iranian security agents have arrested eight people with ties to the CIA during last week’s protests caused by increases in petrol prices.

According to the official news agency IRNA, which today quoted the director general of the anti-espionage department of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry; a number of elements that were seeking to collect information on the riots and transfer it to foreign countries were identified and arrested before they could carry out their mission.

The official said: “These elements that had received CIA-funded training in various countries to gather information under the guise of citizen-journalists had been monitored for quite a long time,” adding that they had received orders to attend the riots and to prepare reports, especially videos.

Six were reportedly arrested attending street riots while “carrying out CIA orders”, while two others were apprehended as they were trying to “send information abroad”.

The Iranian government has justified its fuel price hike, arguing that it intends to use the extra money on cash handouts and subsidies for the poorest of society. Iran is facing a budget deficit due to decreased flow of oil revenues after the US unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and re-imposed crippling economic sanctions on Tehran, urging others to follow suit, and threatening countries with sanctions for non-compliance.