x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Iran confirms US trio arrested

An Iranian security official confirms three American backpackers have been arrested for "illegal entry" into Iran and said they are being interrogated.

An Iranian security official has confirmed the arrest of three Americans for "illegal entry" into Iran near the border with Iraq and said they are being interrogated. The detentions came as Washington seeks to increase pressure on Tehran over its nuclear drive and amid deep political turmoil in Iran following the president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election in June. "These three people whose identity is not known yet were arrested on the Malakh-Khor border near the town of Marivan," Iraj Hassanzadeh, the deputy governor of Iran's Kordestan province, told the Fars news agency.

"Anyone who seeks to illegally enter the country from the Kordestan border will be arrested," he said, referring to an area near the frontier with the Kurdish area of northern Iraq. US media have identified the trio who went missing on Saturday while backpacking in the rugged mountains between Iraq and Iran as Shane Bauer, Sara Shourd and Joshua Fattal, all in their mid-20s. Mr Hassanzadeh told Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alam television that the three were arrested "four days ago and are being interrogated".

He told Fars the detainees had Syrian and Iraqi visas and "they have made no confessions yet". The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called on Iran to ensure their safe return. Switzerland, which in the absence of US-Iranian diplomatic relations represents American interests in Iran, had been asked to help track them down, she added. *AFP