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Iraq Official Says Americans Seized In Iran Were Lost

AL-SULAYMANIYAH, Iraq -- A senior Iraqi Kurdish government official says the three U.S. citizens who were seized by Iranian authorities near the Iran-Iraq border on July 30 are tourists who accidentally strayed into Iranian territory, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports.

Qadir Hama Jan, director of security for Sulaymaniyah Province, told Radio Free Iraq that Shane Bauer, Sara Short, Joshua Fattal, and Shaun Gabriel are American tourists who entered Iraq's Kurdish region on July 27 via Turkey.

He said two of them study Arabic at Damascus University in Syria.

Jan said that on July 29, three of them went to the summer resort in the Iraqi city of Ahmad Awa, a heavily forested area northeast of Al-Sulaymaniyah, while the fourth, Shaun Gabriel, stayed behind because he was not feeling well.

Jan said the three slept in Ahmad Awa and the next day went trekking in the nearby mountains, where the border is unmarked.

At about 1 p.m. on July 30 they were arrested by Iranian border guards.

One of the Americans called a friend in Al-Sulaymaniyah to report that they had been detained.

The friend then informed police and called the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which sent a team to investigate.

Jan stressed that the three Americans were seized in an area where locals on both sides of the Iraq-Iran border often get lost and mistakenly cross into each country's territory.