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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 January 2007, 18:43 GMT
US Iraq raid draws Iranian anger
Iraq map
US forces have stormed a building in the northern Iraqi town of Irbil and seized six people said to be Iranians, prompting a diplomatic incident.

Iranian and Iraqi officials said the building was an Iranian consulate and the detainees its employees.

The US military said it was still investigating, but that the building did not have diplomatic status.

The troops raided the building at about 0300 (0001GMT), taking away computers and papers, according to local media.

AFP news agency quoted Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman as saying he did not know the nationality of the six but said they were "suspected of being closely tied to activities targeting Iraq and coalition forces".

"I can confirm for you through our forces there that this is not a consulate or a government building," he said.

However, Tehran said the attack violated all international conventions. It has summoned ambassadors from Switzerland, representing US interests, and Iraq.

A spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry described the raid as an attempt to sabotage Tehran's relations with Iraq. One Iranian MP said it showed America's cruelty and meanness.

The raid comes amid high Iran-US tension.

In a major speech on Wednesday, President George W Bush said the US would take a tough stance towards Iran and Syria, whom he accused of destabilising Iraq.

The US also accuses Iran of seeking nuclear arms. Iran denies both charges.

Tehran counters that US military involvement in the Middle East endangers the whole region.


A local TV station said Kurdish security forces had taken over the building after the Americans had left.

Irbil lies in Iraq's Kurdish-controlled north, about 350km (220 miles) from the capital Baghdad. Reports say the Iranian consulate there was set up last year under an agreement with the Kurdish regional government to facilitate cross-border visits.

Woman injured in Samarra bombing
Dozens of casualties resulted from a truck bombing in Samarra

One Iranian news agency with a correspondent in Irbil says five US helicopters were used to land troops on the roof of the Iranian consulate.

It reports that a number of vehicles cordoned off the streets around the building, while US soldiers warned the occupants in three different languages that they should surrender or be killed.

In December, US troops detained a number of Iranians in Iraq, including two with diplomatic immunity who were later released.

Thursday's raid came as US President George W Bush unveiled his new strategy in Iraq, which included increasing troop numbers and a commitment to stop Iranian support for "our enemies in Iraq".

BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says the raid could signal a ratcheting-up of pressure on the Iranians, in line with the rhetorical thrust of his speech.

Meanwhile in the Iraqi capital, five off-duty policemen were killed in an ambush in the western al-Khadra neighbourhood, hospital officials said

Security sources said another man was killed in an attack on a money changer in downtown Baghdad.

In the restive Anbar province, the US military said that one of its troops was killed on Tuesday by a roadside bombing.

Other violence was reported in Mosul, where gunmen killed a professor driving home from work, and Samarra where a suicide truck bomber attacked the mayor's house, killing three people and wounding 33, including the mayor.

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