The spate of incidents was aimed at stoking "fear and terror," the Interior Ministry said
Iranian authorities have arrested more than 100 suspects in connection with a spate of alleged poisonings at schools across the country, the Interior Ministry said on Saturday. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called for "maximum punishment" of the perpetrators.
The arrests took place in Tehran and 10 other provinces, according to a statement from the ministry cited by the IRNA news agency.
Some of those arrested used "harmless and smelly substances" to cause panic and shut down schools, the ministry's statement claimed. Others with "hostile motives" used unknown substances to "create fear and terror among students, shut down schools, and create pessimism towards [the Islamic establishment]," it continued.
The ministry said it is probing whether the latter group has any links with the Mujahedin Khalq Organization, a terrorist group allegedly backed by the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.
Iran has been plagued by a string of mysterious "mild" poisonings since last November, with the apparent attacks occurring at more than 50 schools. Over 1,000 schoolgirls have been affected, triggering protests by parents and prompting some to take their children out of school altogether.
There have been several versions on who is behind the alleged poisonings. President Ebrahim Raisi has blamed Iran's external "enemies," while Deputy Health Minister Younes Panahi has suggested that hardline religious groups who oppose women's education may be involved.
Khamenei has promised a tough response. Speaking to reporters last week, he branded the incidents an "unforgivable crime," and said that "if the poisoning of students is proven, perpetrators should face maximum punishment with no pardon."