Iran arrests 3 foreigners on suspect trip to Iraq

AP News
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Posted: Sep 09, 2014 3:24 AM

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian authorities have detained three foreigners traveling through Iran under the suspicion they were planning to join the extremists Islamic State group in neighboring Iraq, a state-owned Tehran newspapers reported on Tuesday.

The report by the IRAN daily quoted Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli as saying Iranian border guards stopped several travelers en route to Iraq and had "three cases of arrests."

Fazli, who spoke at a meeting of provincial governors along with Iran's chief of police, said that Afghan and Pakistani nationals were arrested but did not provide a breakdown.

The report did not say when or where the arrests happened. Fazli's remarks were a rare mention by an Iranian official of the possibility of Islamic State supporters being present in Iran.

The predominantly Shiite Iran supports the Iraqi government's struggle against Islamic State fighters who this summer overran much of western and northern Iraq, along with seizing territory in eastern Syria.

Tehran also provides military advisers to Baghdad in the anti-militant campaign against the mostly Sunni militants. It denies having any forces on the ground in neighboring Iraq.

President Barack Obama is seeking an international coalition to challenge the Islamic State group and is expected to outline his plan Wednesday. The U.S. began conducting airstrikes last month against Islamic State fighters in Iraq in what amounts to the first American militarily action in the country since American troops left in 2011.

Fazli, the Iranian interior minister, also sought to calm Iranian concerns on the insurgency next door. Iran's Sunnis, an extremely small minority, live along Iran's border with Iraq, as well along the Pakistan, Afghanistan borders.

"There is no space in Iran for terrorist groups," said Fazli, adding that "Iranian security forces and the people living near the border are aware of the dangers."

The report also quoted the police chief, Gen. Ismail Ahmadi Moghadam, as saying that there have been reports, apparently from Iranian Sunni families, that the Islamic State group has tried to recruit their sons.

He assured the audience that "there is no room for concern," adding that Iran's police is "fully ready" to face any threats from the militant group.