x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

US trio warned 'not to climb mountain' near Iran

Three US tourists held by Iran after they crossed from Iraqi Kurdistan were warned by police before hiking across the mountainous terrain where they were arrested.

Three US tourists held by Iran after they crossed from Iraqi Kurdistan were warned by police before hiking across the mountainous terrain where they were arrested, a Kurdish security official has told AFP. Beshro Ahmed, the media adviser for the General Security Department in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, said the trio, two men and a woman, had entered Kurdistan from Turkey earlier this week along with a fourth American who did not join the trek because he was ill.

Mr Ahmed named the three as Shane Bower, Sara Short and Joshua Steel, while Shaun Gabriel Maxwell stayed behind in their hotel in the autonomous Kurdish region's second largest city of Sulaimaniyah. "On Thursday, three of them went to the summer resort at Ahmed Awa," Mr Ahmed said of an area about 90km northeast of Sulaimaniyah. "The (Kurdish) touristic police in the area asked them not to climb the mountains because the Iranian border was very close.

"On Friday, they went close to the mountains, and climbed them. Then they called their friend in the hotel telling him that they were arrested by Iranian forces at the border," Mr Ahmed said. "Shaun was in the hotel and he called the US embassy in Iraq to tell them about this information, and the Americans came to the hotel and took him." Mr Ahmed said the group had originally been in Syria before going to Turkey and eventually crossing the Turkey-Kurdistan border. They stayed in the regional capital Arbil for one night before moving on to Sulaimaniyah.

*AFP