With hugs and jubilation, dozens of relatives welcomed home 480 Iraqi prisoners of war released Thursday by Iran despite its strained relations with Iraq.
Soldiers on both sides of the border smiled and cheered as the weary prisoners in gray suits, who were captured during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, were ushered into Iraqi territory.
Reports from the border spoke of emotional scenes as prisoners were reunited with their families; some knelt and kissed the ground as they arrived back.
Iran has freed nearly two-thousand five hundred Iraqi POWs in the past month.
A Red Cross official in Iraq said the release was part of an ongoing procedure, but gave no other details.
Mohammed Zaki walked with the aid of a stick and had an amputated arm. "What you see is a human tragedy," he said.
Faiq Mahmoud, who had spent 20 years as a prisoner, knelt down and kissed the ground while Fawziya Araibi threw herself at her brother, Fawzi.
Tariq and Saleh Askar held their brother Mudhafar Askar high as relatives showered them with chocolate and other sweets.
"For us he has been resurrected. For 20 years, we thought he was dead," said Saleh.
Correspondents say the fate of thousands of prisoners of war is among the thorniest of issues hindering ties between Iran and Iraq.
Thursday's release -- the second in less than a month -- came amid mounting tensions between Iran and Iraq over recent explosions that have rocked their capitals.
On Monday, six rockets were fired on a residential quarter in Baghdad, injuring eight civilians. Iraq has blamed Iranian agents for the assault, which coincided with a mortar attack on the Iranian police headquarters in Tehran – (Several Sources)
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