Tre amerikanske fotturister som Iran hevder krysset grensen ulovlig, befant seg i virkeligheten i Nord-Irak, og ble regelrett bortført av iranske agenter. Det hevder en stammeleder som har mange vitner til bortføringen.

Hvis opplysningene lar seg bekrefte kan hendelsen ta en helt annen vending.

Amerikanerne ble tatt til fange for tre uker siden, men sveitsiske diplomater har ennå ikke fått besøke dem. Sveits representerer amerikanske interesser i Iran.

But Farhad Lohoni, the leader of the local tribe, said his relatives had witnessed a group of men cross the border using a road that leads to a base used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Marivan, Iran.

He claimed that the local Kurdish security service had records of a call suspected to have been made by an Iranian agent to Iran that is said to have tipped off the IRGC to the Americans’ presence in the scenic area.

«This was not a case of the Americans straying into Iran,» he said. «They were targeted and captured by a group that came over from Iran, ignoring Iraq’s sovereignty. We know this and it means that Iran must have wanted to take Americans hostage at this sensitive time.»

The detentions came at a time of heightened tension between Washington and Tehran.

Iran has accused America of meddling in its affairs since large protests broke out in the aftermath of its presidential election in June. The move also followed attempts by Washington to increase pressure on Iran over the Islamic state’s nuclear ambitions.

The three Americans had been hiking near a scenic waterfall at Ahmed Awa, in Khormal district, 40 miles southeast of Sulaimaniyah, on the Iraqi Kurdistan-Iranian border, as part of a holiday tour of Iraq. Mr Lohoni said the waterfall is a three hour hike from the Iranian border along a steep trail and in parts there are uncleared minefields left over from the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s

American hikers arrested for ‘illegal entry’ into Iran ‘were snatched in Iraq in cross-border raid’