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Middle east

Three US tourists seized by border guards after straying across Iraq border

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-08-01

Iranian border guards detained three American tourists after they strayed into Iran from Iraqi Kurdistan, CNN reported. They had been visiting Ahmed Awa, a popular tourist spot that lacks clearly marked borders with Iran.

AFP - Iran, a longstanding adversary of Washington, detained three US tourists on Friday after they crossed into the country from Iraqi Kurdistan, CNN reported.

A senior US administration official said the embassy in Baghdad was aware of the reports and was investigating, while an official at the Pentagon insisted that the incident did not involve any US military personnel.

The US network said the three had been visiting Ahmed Awa, a popular tourist destination in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, which lacks clearly marked borders with Iran, when they were taken into custody.

A fourth member of the group, who took ill and stayed behind at a hotel, spoke by telephone to the group who said they had been surrounded by the Iranian military, CNN reported.

Hours earlier, an official in Iraq's border guards told AFP that three Westerners of unconfirmed nationality had been arrested Friday by Iranian security forces for crossing the border.

"Three Westerners, with their backpacks, crossed the border with Iran at Ahmed Awa" before being arrested, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ahmed Awa lies about 90 kilometers (55 miles) northeast of the autonomous Kurdish region's second-biggest city of Sulaimaniyah.

CNN added that tourist police around Ahmed Awa reported that they met the three Americans and warned them of their proximity to the border with Iran.

"Look, you're not Iraqi. You're Americans. These are very tense times," CNN paraphrased the tourist police as saying.

Tensions between Washington and the Islamic republic have been high for years, with Iran deriding the United States as the "Great Satan" and President Barack Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, labeling Tehran part of an "axis of evil."

But the levels of acrimony have shot up in recent months as Washington, despite Obama recently offering Tehran a chance to turn the page, has expressed mounting concern over Iran's nuclear ambitions and its disputed June election.

The detention of US nationals by Iran likely would be seen as a major propaganda victory for Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The reported arrests came three days after Iraqi forces stormed a camp housing Iran's main exiled opposition movement.

The raid of the People's Mujahedeen camp and the subsequent violence led to the deaths of 11 camp residents, with at least 300 wounded and 50 arrested, according to Iraqi security officials.
 

Date created : 2009-08-01

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