Saturday, 23 October 2010

CNN: Document says Iranians crossed border to arrest hikers

Washington (CNN) -- A classified U.S. military document appears to lend credence to claims that Iran crossed the Iraqi border to arrest three American hikers.

The field report was one of 400,000 the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks released Friday concerning U.S. and coalition operations in Iraq.

The report lists a number of military grids where the Americans were believed to have been hiking or had been detained -- all on the Iraqi side of the border, according to The New York Times, which reviewed the document with aid from an American government official.

"This has been suggested publicly before," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told CNN on Friday. "The simple answer is, we don't know. All we know is that two hikers remain in Iranian custody and should be released today. They have done nothing wrong."

The July 12 edition of The Nation magazine cited two witnesses who said they saw members of Iran's national police force in July 2009 cross the border into northern Iraq to apprehend Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal. Shourd has since been released. Bauer and Fattal remain jailed in Tehran's Evin prison.

The hikers described themselves as tourists. Tehran contends they are spies.
The military document, dated July 31, 2009, the date the hikers were detained, has been heavily redacted. It includes references to Kirkuk and Baghdad, cities in Iraq.

A fourth hiker who became ill and did not go on the trip "reported that a kidnapped female called him saying that they were being surrounded by armed men," according to the report.
A drone aircraft was sent to look for the missing Americans, and two F-16 jet fighters were alerted, the Times says of the document.

The military dispatch ended with an assessment.

"The lack of coordination on the part of these hikers, particularly after being forewarned, indicates an intent to agitate and create publicity regarding international policies on [Iran]," the assessment read in part.

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