Baghdad: US frees Iranians


Summary

An Iranian diplomat said one of those released contacted the embassy this morning to say that they have been handed over to Iraqi authorities.

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American troops raided Baghdad's Sheraton Ishtar hotel and took away a group of about 10 people late yesterday.

The diplomat said the seven Iranians included an embassy staffer and six members of a delegation from Iran's Electricity Ministry.

The US military confirmed that it had taken "some individuals … identified as being Iranian citizens with Iranian passports" into custody yesterday, but said they were apprehended at a checkpoint nearby the Sheraton hotel during a routine stop.

The others involved were "Iraqi escorts who identified themselves with Iraqi Ministry of Electricity badges," the military said.

Several of the men were observed to have weapons in their cars, none of them had the appropriate permits, so all were detained, the US military said.

Frosty relations

The arrest of Iranians officials could add to tensions between Washington and Tehran already strained by the detention of each other's citizens and by US accusations of Iranian involvement in Iraq's violence and alleged Iranian efforts to develop nuclear bombs.

Videotape shot last night by Associated Press Television News showed US troops leading about 10 blindfolded and handcuffed men out of the hotel in central Baghdad.

Other soldiers carried out what appeared to be luggage and at least one briefcase and a laptop computer bag.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said, "I've seen that report but I can't verify it."

Iran has constantly complained about the US detention since January 11 of five Iranians who were in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

US officials say the five include the operations chief and other members of Iran's elite Quds Force, which is accused of arming and training Iraqi militants.

The Iranian regime denies any involvement in the violence wracking its neighbour.


An Iranian diplomat said one of those released contacted the embassy this morning to say that they have been handed over to Iraqi authorities.

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American troops raided Baghdad's Sheraton Ishtar hotel and took away a group of about 10 people late yesterday.

The diplomat said the seven Iranians included an embassy staffer and six members of a delegation from Iran's Electricity Ministry.

The US military confirmed that it had taken "some individuals … identified as being Iranian citizens with Iranian passports" into custody yesterday, but said they were apprehended at a checkpoint nearby the Sheraton hotel during a routine stop.

The others involved were "Iraqi escorts who identified themselves with Iraqi Ministry of Electricity badges," the military said.

Several of the men were observed to have weapons in their cars, none of them had the appropriate permits, so all were detained, the US military said.

Frosty relations

The arrest of Iranians officials could add to tensions between Washington and Tehran already strained by the detention of each other's citizens and by US accusations of Iranian involvement in Iraq's violence and alleged Iranian efforts to develop nuclear bombs.

Videotape shot last night by Associated Press Television News showed US troops leading about 10 blindfolded and handcuffed men out of the hotel in central Baghdad.

Other soldiers carried out what appeared to be luggage and at least one briefcase and a laptop computer bag.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said, "I've seen that report but I can't verify it."

Iran has constantly complained about the US detention since January 11 of five Iranians who were in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

US officials say the five include the operations chief and other members of Iran's elite Quds Force, which is accused of arming and training Iraqi militants.

The Iranian regime denies any involvement in the violence wracking its neighbour.