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Iran detains US hikers who strayed across border from Iraq

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Tourists in Iraq? It may seem improbable, but the story of three American hikers who strayed into Iran from Iraq on Friday isn’t as unlikely as it first seems. The Kurdish area of northern Iraq is far safer than the Arab areas of the south, the Kurds are generally pro-American (unlike their Arab cousins), and the landscape is in fact beautiful. (The area where the three were traveling is marked "As-Sulaymaniyyah" on this map.)

AFP reports that the three apparently set out to hike the Amadawa valley area – about 50 miles northeast of the Kurdish capital Sulaymaniyah and ignored warnings about the poorly marked border.

“The (Kurdish) tourist police in the area asked them not to climb the mountains because the Iranian border was very close," (government spokesman Beshro) Ahmed said. "On Friday, they went close to the mountains, and climbed them. Then they called their friend in the hotel telling him that they were arrested by Iranian forces at the border.”

Iran’s official Press TV confirmed the American’s had been detained for “illegally entering the country.” CNN reports that the US, which does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, is reaching out to Tehran through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran to confirm the matter and to arrange a consular visit.

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