Israel's Mossad intelligence agency says eight Iranian Jews who disappeared while trying to leave the Islamic Republic in the 1990's were killed.

A late Thursday statement from the prime minister's office, which oversees the agency, cited "intelligence sources" that the Jews were "caught during the escape and murdered."

It said that in 1994 and 1997, eleven Jews disappeared while trying to leave Iran. The statement did not say who killed them or what happened to the others.

Iran and Israel are bitter enemies.

Iran's Jewish community has deep roots in the country and, although it has dwindled over the decades, remains the Middle East's largest outside Israel at about 25,000 people.

Though technically protected by Iran's constitution, the community has led an uneasy existence under the Islamic government.