AP: U.S. forces on Thursday released five Iranian officials who were detained in January 2007 in northern Iraq on suspicion of aiding Shiite Iraqi militants, Iranian and Iraqi officials said.
The Associated Press
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA
BAGHDAD (AP) — U.S. forces on Thursday released five Iranian officials who were detained in January 2007 in northern Iraq on suspicion of aiding Shiite Iraqi militants, Iranian and Iraqi officials said.
Iranian embassy spokesman Amir Arshadi said the Iranian detainees had been handed over to Iraqi authorities, and that the embassy expected to receive them later in the day. His comments were confirmed by Yassin Majid, media adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
There was no immediate comment from U.S. authorities.
The officials were detained in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil and at the time U.S. authorities said the men included the operations chief and other members of Iran's elite Quds Force, which is accused of arming and training Iraqi militants. Iran denied the claim.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi confirmed the report on state television saying "the hostages are in the office of Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, for a meeting."
Qashqavi, who called the five men "diplomats," said they called the Iranian embassy in Baghdad and their families in Iran to say they were doing well.
"Within hours they will be delivered to the embassy," said Qashqavi expressing hope they join their families, soon.
Qashqavi said Iraqi officials on Wednesday informed Iranian side that the U.S. forces would release the diplomats on Thursday.
The report identified the men as Mohsen Bagheri, Mahmoud Farhadi, Majid Ghaemi, Majid Dagheri and Abbas Jami.
The detention of the five became a new point of contention between Tehran and Washington.
Associated Press Writer Nasser Karimi contributed to this report from Tehran.