WASHINGTON, Jan 12, 2007 (AFP) – A group of Iranians detained by US forces in Iraq in a new effort to counter Tehran’s alleged support for violent attacks had links to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, a senior US official said Friday.
Six Iranians were nabbed in a night-time swoop by US forces on an office in the northern Iraq city of Arbil early Thursday, prompting protests from Iran and strong criticism from other governments.
State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the Arbil office was targeted “because there was information that we had that the individuals there were associated with attacks against multinational forces, against Iraqi forces,” he said.
“Certainly there’s also been information linking this facility to Revolutionary Guard and other Iranian elements … that are fomenting violence” in Iraq, he said.
“The claim that this was somehow an innocent diplomatic facility seems to ring hollow in light of that,” he said.
Casey confirmed that one of the six people detained had been released and the other five were still in custody of US forces, who are continuing to investigate the incident.
Iran protested the raid on the Arbil office to the US government via its interest section in the Swiss embassy in Washington, Casey said.
Earlier Friday State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said none of the detained Iranians held diplomatic passports and that the Arbil office had no diplomatic status.
“It was a building that the Iranians were using, occupying, it was Iraqi territory,” he said.
In Baghdad the office was described as an Iranian liaison office.