AFP: Nine Iranians held in Iraq on suspicion of aiding the anti-US insurgency will be freed within a week, but 11 others deemed a security threat will remain in captivity, the US military said on Wednesday. BAGHDAD (AFP) Nine Iranians held in Iraq on suspicion of aiding the anti-US insurgency will be freed within a week, but 11 others deemed a security threat will remain in captivity, the US military said on Wednesday.
“We haven’t set a date for their release,” military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith told a press conference, a day after announcing that the nine would be freed as they no longer posed a threat to security in Iraq.
“There will be government of Iraq participation in their handover,” he said, telling AFP later that the releases would take place “within a week.”
Smith told the press conference that 11 more Iranians remain in US military custody in Iraq. “They are still considered a security threat to Iraq and their status is reviewed regularly.”
Among those to be released are two of five Iranians detained in January in a raid on a building in the Kurdish city of Arbil. They were accused of aiding the deadly insurgency in Iraq, although Tehran insisted they were diplomats.
Smith said the two continue to be identified as “Quds Force associates”, referring to the covert unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard which the US has declared as a terrorist organisation.
“The two individuals remain identified as Quds Force associates but their individual threat to this country is deemed to be insignificant,” Smith said.
Smith said the 11 others will continue to be in detention as they “are considered threat to this country.”
“They will remain in detention till such time a panel reviewing their cases feels otherwise,” he said, adding the threat level of each of the individuals differed.
Smith indicated that Mahmud Farhadi, the most high-profile of the detainees whose arrest in September triggered an uproar in Tehran, was among the 11 being retained.
“We know more about him now than when we first took him in detention. His file is being developed on a periodic basis just like other individuals and at the present time he is a security risk and will be held in detention.”
Farhadi was accused of being a Quds Force officer following his arrest in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah.
Tehran closed its border with northern Iraq for two weeks to protest his arrest, saying he was in Iraq as part of a commercial delegation.
Baghdad and northern Iraq’s Kurdish administration also backed Tehran.
The release of the nine Iranians follows a statement by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates that Tehran had assured Baghdad it would help stop the flow of armour piercing bombs into Iraq.