US military frees 9 Iranian prisoners in Iraq

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BAGHDAD, Nov 9 (Reuters) Nine Iranians held by the US military in Iraq were released today because they no longer posed a security threat, the military said in a statement.

The Iranians released included two who were among five captured in northern Arbil in January on suspicion of assisting Shi'ite militias in Iraq. US officials accuse them of being members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' elite Qods Force.

There was no immediate reaction from the Iranian embassy in Baghdad but Tehran has maintained that the five captured in Arbil are diplomats.

Their detention contributed to a sharp rise in tensions between Iran and Iraq, as well as between bitter rivals Tehran and Washington.

The nine released today were among 20 Iranians being held by US forces in Iraq.

''All nine individuals were determined to no longer pose a security risk and to be of no continued intelligence value,'' the statement said.

Reuters RJ GC1325

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