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Iraq asks Iran to free three US citizens

Iraq has pleaded with Iran to release three American arrested in Iran, claiming that the three have simply been lost tourists, Iraqi Foreign Minister has said.

“They entered the country without knowledge of the terrain,” Hoshyar Zebari said Monday. “From the way we studied the case, and the way they were wandering round without maps, we think this was not something serious.”

Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 30 and Joshua Fattal, 27, have been held since they crossed into the country July 31 while crossing into Iran through a mountainous area of Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region.

The White House announced Sunday that it had received the official confirmation from Tehran that the trio was in Iranian custody.

Zebari added that Iraq has demanded Iran to free the three US citizens on humanitarian basis as they had been visiting Iraq as tourists. He said he made the request during a meeting last week with the Iranian ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi.

Meanwhile, a Kurdish security official has said police had warned the group not to cross the border. “The tourism police in the region had asked them not to climb mountains because the Iranian border was very close,” said Bechro Ahmad, the spokesman of the security of Iraqi Kurdistan, and concludes that “they crossed the border, despite warnings.”

Also, Mohammed Karim Abedi, a member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security Committee, said on Iran’s state-run TV that the three Americans were “definitely” spies.

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