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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 December, 2003, 16:43 GMT
Coalition forces release Iranians
US soldiers repatriate Iranian pilgrims trying to illegally cross into Iraq
Coalition troops detain Iranian pilgrims entering Iraq illegally
Forty-one Iranians held in Iraq over the past seven months have been released by coalition forces, the Iranian news agency Irna reports.

The group was released from Umm Qasr prison in southern Iraq and crossed back into Iran at the Shalamcheh border post near the town of Khorramshahr.

Governor Mohammad Ali Shirali told Irna they had been wrongly detained.

He said the prisoners were mainly pilgrims and aid workers who went to Iraq "in order to help the Iraqis".

He complained that the prisoners had also had their vehicles and possessions confiscated by the coalition forces.

Pilgrims

The news agency said the release had been arranged by the Iranian embassy in Iraq and the Red Cross.

In late November, nine Iranian prisoners detained by US troops were released from the same prison.

US troops are still believed to be holding at least a further 50 Iranians in Baghdad.

Iran says most of them are would-be pilgrims trying to reach Shia holy sites in southern Iraq, arrested for crossing the border illegally.



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