Arbil, Asharq Al-Awsat- An official spokesman for the Border Guard Command in the Kurdistan Region has denied reports carried by the international media, quoting a document posted on the ‘Wikileaks’ website, alleging that three American tourists had been arrested by Kurdish forces, and subsequently handed over to the Iranian authorities.
In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Jabbar Yawar stressed that “the tourists entered Iranian territory by mistake, because they were not aware of [their proximity to] the international border between Iraq and Iran. They had been warned not to go near the border but they made a mistake by crossing into Iranian territory, where they were arrested by Iranian forces deployed on the border. We have nothing to do with their arrest, and the published reports are not correct at all.” Yawar pointed out that “joint investigations were conducted by the Interior Ministry of the Kurdistan Region, the Border Guard Command of the Kurdistan Region, and the General Security Directorate of Asayish [the Kurdish Security Forces] at the time, specifically after the arrest of the three tourists, in order to uncover the circumstances surrounding the incident. This joint committee confirmed that the tourists crossed into Iranian territory by mistake. Furthermore, the Iranian authorities at the time published an official statement announcing the tourists’ arrest inside Iranian territory, and not in the Kurdistan Region, which had been alleged by sources detailed in the [Wikileaks] report.”
For his part, the undersecretary of the Kurdish Interior Ministry said in press statements that “the three tourists were arrested whilst crossing into Iranian territory, and we in Kurdistan are not agents of Iran, so we would not arrest those who cross their [Iran’s] international border, or arrest people and hand them over to the Iranian authorities.” Another undersecretary of the Kurdish Interior Ministry, Faiq Tawfiq, said: “We did not receive any request or official document at the time from the Iranian side, in order for us to arrest these three tourists. What has been published in the Wikileaks report is nothing more than media accusations that have no foundation whatsoever.”
Meanwhile, Major Ahmad Gharib, commander of the Third Brigade of the Sulaymaniyah sector, in the Kurdish Border Guard forces, has denied the occurrence of any clashes during the arrest of the three tourists. He stressed that “these individuals crossed into Iranian territory without an official permit; therefore they were arrested immediately upon crossing the border. We have nothing to do with their arrest or capture by the Iranian authorities.” Major Gharib said that “investigations were conducted at the time regarding this issue, and the results completely ruled out the use of force, or the occurrence of any clashes, during the arrest of these tourists.”