3 American Hikers Held Hostage in Iran

August 3, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Three American hikers who crossed into Iran are being held captive Monday morning. The hikers, including a woman from California were captured by Iranian military forces. Another hiker, from the Bay Area was supposed to go on the trip, but he had a cold and stayed behind.Monday, the Swiss embassy, acting for the United States, is seeking answers on the three Americans detained in Iran. The stories are conflicting. Iranian T.V. said the three were warned not to cross the border.

IRAN Press TV: "They have been detained for illegal entry into Iran from Iraq's Kurdistan region. "

But State Department officials said the American tourists accidentally strayed into Iranian territory. Now they are in custody, somewhere in Iran.

Shane Bauer, from Minnesota is based in the Middle East as a freelance journalist. Sarah Shourd from California is a writer and teacher based in the Middle East. Joshua Fattal, an environmental worker in Oregon, was reportedly curious about his father's native Iraq. A fourth American, Shon Meckfessel stayed in the hotel in the city of Sulimaniyah.

"He had a cold, so he didn't go with them, when they went," said Irene Meckfessel, Shon's grandmother.

Meckfessel, an English teacher from Seattle, got an alarming phone call from his three friends, saying, "We're surrounded." The detentions come at a tense time in U.S.-Iranian relations. Iran accuses the United States of fomenting protests following the June election and of meddling with its nuclear program. Journalist Roxana Siberi was also recently detained there.

Michael O'Hanlon with the Brookings Institution said, "I think there's a decent chance that Iran will portray these three as spies. And leave it up to the United States or to these three individuals to prove they are innocent."

Family members hope the Americans won't be used as bargaining chips. Fattal's father wrote in a statement to ABC News: "Currently we are only concerned about the well-being of Joshua and the other two people. We hope they come home as soon as possible."

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