ARBIL, Iraq (AFP) – US troops have raided Iran’s consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil and arrested five employees, an Iranian diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
“We don’t know the reason for this,” the diplomat said of the raid, which came amid mounting US accusations that Iranian agents are fomenting unrest in Iraq and ordering attacks on American forces.
“The Americans arrested five employees and took all the computers and documentation,” the Iranian official said.
The Iranian consulate building in Arbil, which is the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, was sealed off by Kurdish security forces, according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.
In Tehran, the semi-official Fars new agency confirmed the raid.
“In this attack, five of the consulate staff have been arrested by the American troops. They also took some documents and properties,” Fars said, quoting an un-named official.
“In the US occupiers’ attack on Iran’s general consulate in Arbil, the raiders have broken the gate of the office and arrested the consulate’s guards,” the official added Thursday.
An official at the Iranian foreign ministry told AFP that an investigation had been launched, while a US military spokesman in Baghdad failed to answer his telephone or respond to e-mail queries.
Another US military spokesman, Major General William Caldwell, said on December 27 that US forces had detained two Iranian nationals among eight people rounded up on suspicion of weapons smuggling in a raid in Baghdad.
The two Iranians were later handed over to Iranian officials in Baghdad.
The Iranian consulate at Arbil was set up in 2006 after agreement between Baghdad and Tehran to facilitate cross-border visits of their citizens.