Germany has acknowledged an increase in spying by Iranian agents on exiled Iranians since the start of mass protests last year, Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported on Saturday.

Nationwide unrest triggered by the death of a young woman detained by Iranian morality police last year has led to "increasing indications of possible spying on opposition events and individuals" in Germany, the federal government said in response to an information request from the far-left Linke Party.

"Opposition groups and individuals (...) are considered by the rulers in Iran as a threat to the continued existence of the regime," the government said in its response.

It said the country's domestic intelligence service had identified 160 individuals with links to Germany as well as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

The Islamic Republic has persecuted exiled dissidents for four decades, often threatening, assassinating or kidnapping activists in Europe, including a former prime minister and several journalists.

The Revolutionary Guards' "extensive spying activities" are directed in particular against pro-Israeli and pro-Jewish targets in Germany, the newspaper cited the government as saying.

Demonstrations that first erupted in September over the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who had been placed in detention by police enforcing the Islamic Republic's strict restrictions on women's dress have turned into the biggest protests in years.

Reporting by Reuters

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