August 1, 2009 / 11:34 AM / 11 years ago

Foreign tourists held in Iran - Kurdish official

SULAIMANIYA, Iraq (Reuters) - A senior Kurdish security official said on Saturday that three tourists, believed to be American, who disappeared close to northern Iraq’s border with Iran, had entered Iranian territory and been arrested.

The tourists had arrived in the Kurdish city Sulaimaniya, 260 km (160 miles) northeast of Baghdad, from Arbil, the capital of Iraq’s largely autonomous Kurdish region, on Wednesday.

“The Kurdish security authorities are certain that American tourists entered Iran and were arrested there,” Qadr Hamajan, a senior security official in Sulaimaniya, told Reuters.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry, responding to reports of their arrest, said: “The issue of their arrests is under investigation,” without giving details.

The Iranian embassy in Baghdad said it had no information.

A U.S. embassy official in Baghdad who declined to be named said: “We are aware of the reports and we are investigating ... we are using all available means to determine the facts of this case.”

On Thursday, three out of four of the group went on to the Ahmed Awa tourist resort, known for its waterfalls, east of Sulaimaniya near the Iranian border. The fourth member of the group was ill and remained in Sulaimaniya.

One of the group was believed to be an Arabic speaker, and a police colonel said on Friday the group had no bodyguards and no interpreter and were last seen at about 11 p.m. on Thursday at the resort.

There is no clear border marker between Iran and Iraq at Ahmed Awa.

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