Iraq: US forces free nine Iranians
The U.S. military freed nine Iranians from custody in Iraq on Friday, including two accused of being members of an elite force. It said they were no longer considered security risks.
According to the AP, the nine were freed to Iraqi officials, and were being transferred to the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, the U.S. military said in a statement. They were expected to return to Iran later Friday, it said.
The nine Iranians released Friday included two men - identified by the military for the first time as Brujerd Chegini and Hamid Reza Asgari Shukuh - who were among five people captured when American forces stormed an Iranian government office in the northern city of Irbil in January.
In Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told state radio: "From the beginning of the abduction of the five Iranian diplomats, we said they were innocent. Now the U.S. military has confirmed it."
According to Hosseini, he hoped the remaining three Iranians detained in Irbil will also be released soon. And he reiterated Tehran's offer for talks with U.S. and Iraqi diplomats. "Iran is ready to consider a new round of trilateral talks, if Iraqi officials demand them," Hosseini said. "U.S. officials should announce their request for the talks through formal channels."
Friday's release came a day after U.S. authorities freed about 500 Iraqi prisoners in an ongoing push to empty American jails of detainees no longer deemed a threat.