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Thursday, January 11, 2007

5 Iranians detained at Iraqi consulate

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi officials said Thursday that the U.S.-led multinational forces detained five Iranians in an overnight raid on Tehran's diplomatic mission in the northern city of Irbil.

The forces stormed the building at about 3 a.m., detaining the five staffers and confiscating computers and documents, two senior local Kurdish officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

Irbil is a city in the Kurdish-controlled north, 220 miles from Baghdad.

A resident living near the mission said troops used stun bombs in the raid and brought down an Iranian flag that was on the roof of the two-story yellow house. As the operation went on, two helicopters flew overhead, said the resident on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution.

"They took five Iranians with them and at about seven in the morning they handed over the house to Kurdish peshmergas," he said.

In the early afternoon, a number of Kurdish guerrillas could be seen around the building preventing people from getting close to the house and not allowing cameramen and photographers to take pictures.

The report, which first appeared on
Iraq state television, also was confirmed by a Shiite official in the capital, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the information.

The U.S. military issued a statement saying it had taken six people into custody in the Irbil region but made no mention of a raid on the Iranian consulate. It declined further comment on the raid.

The motive for the raid was not known, but it came as tensions are high between
Iran and the United States. The Bush administration has accused Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons and of helping fuel violence in Iraq. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, is trying to expand Iran's role in Iraq as a counter to U.S. influence in the Gulf region.

Late last month, U.S. troops elsewhere in Iraq detained at least two Iranians and released two others who had diplomatic immunity.
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