DUBAI - Iran has arrested more than 40 suspected militants around the country, half of whom were planning to reach Iraq and Syria, Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi was quoted as saying by state media on Tuesday.
The militant groups fighting in Iraq and Syria, such as Islamic State, are hardline Sunni Islamists who regard Shi'ite power Iran as heretical.
Alavi said the arrests took place in the northern provinces of Golestan, Mozandaran and Tehran, Khuzestan in the south, and Sistan-Baluchistan in the east.
"The arrested people are mercenaries of some backward regional countries," he added, according to the state broadcaster IRIB, without giving further details.
Iranian politicians often use the term "backward" to refer to Gulf Arab states, Iran's rivals for influence in the Arab world.