U.S. troops released seven Iranians early Wednesday, hours after detaining them at a central Baghdad hotel, an Iranian embassy official said.
The Iranian diplomat, who refused to give his name, told The Associated Press that one of those released contacted the embassy Wednesday morning to say that they have been handed over to Iraqi authorities.
American troops raided Baghdad's Sheraton Ishtar hotel and took away a group of about 10 people late Tuesday. The diplomat said the seven Iranians included an embassy staffer and six members of a delegation from Iran's Electricity Ministry.
"At 7 a.m. today, a member of the delegation called the embassy and said they are now at the prime minister's office," the diplomat said. "The Americans released them. They held them until seven this morning."
The U.S. military confirmed that it had taken "some individuals ... identified as being Iranian citizens with Iranian passports" into custody on Tuesday, but said they were apprehended at a checkpoint nearby the Sheraton hotel during a routine stop.
The others involved were "Iraqi escorts who identified themselves with Iraqi Ministry of Electricity badges," the military said.
Several of the men were observed to have weapons in their cars, none of them had the appropriate permits, so all were detained, the military said.
There was no immediate comment from the military on their possible release.
The arrest of Iranians officials could add to tensions between Washington and Tehran already strained by the detention of each other's citizens.
Videotape shot Tuesday night by AP Television News showed U.S. troops leading about 10 blindfolded and handcuffed men out of the hotel in central Baghdad. Other soldiers carried out what appeared to be luggage and at least one briefcase and a laptop computer bag.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said, "I've seen that report but I can't verify it."
The Internet site of Radio Sawa, an Arabic language station financed by the United States, said Iranian officials were detained and taken to an unknown location. It said the Iranian delegation was in Baghdad to negotiate contracts on electric power stations.
An Iranian diplomat told the AP that the Iranian Embassy had notified Iraqi authorities about the Radio Sawa report. The diplomat refused to give his name.
Iran has constantly complained about the U.S. detention since Jan. 11 of five Iranians who were in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil. U.S. officials say the five include the operations chief and other members of Iran's elite Quds Force, which is accused of arming and training Iraqi militants.
The Iranian regime denies any involvement in the violence wracking its neighbor.
Last Mod: 29 Ağustos 2007, 16:30