Iran detains three Americans who strayed across border

IRBIL, Iraq — Three American civilians were detained in Iran when they apparently strayed across the border from Iraq, Iraqi security officials said Friday.

A spokesman for the Multi-National Forces-Iraq in Baghdad confirmed that Americans had gone missing, and the U.S. embassy in Baghdad said it is investigating. "We are using all available means to determine the facts in this case," said Robert Wood, a State Department spokesman in Washington.

Hakim Kadir, the general director of security forces in the Kurdish controlled province of Sulaimaniya, told al Arabiya television Friday that Americans had been detained by the Iranian government. Kadir could not say whether the Americans were civilians or military personnel.

U.S. officials in Washington, however, said the three were on a tour and were hiking near the border, so far as the U.S. government was aware.

Another Kurdish security official told McClatchy the Americans were traveling to the Ahmed Awaa tourist resort inside Iraq near the Iranian border. The official, who wasn't authorized to speak to the media, said it appeared that the Americans crossed the border accidentally.

He said a fourth American traveling with the group had missed the trip and was staying in a hotel in Sulaimaniyah.

Iraq's Kurdish provinces are much safer for westerners than central and southern Iraq. New hotels and malls have sprouted in Irbil and Sulaimaniya as the Kurdish Regional Government has tried to lure foreign investors to the area.

(Taha is a McClatchy special correspondent in Kurdistan. Ashton reports for the Modesto Bee. Warren P. Strobel in Washington contributed to this article.)


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Read what McClatchy's Iraqi staff has to say at Inside Iraq