Despite denials, Iran did kidnap 5 Americans on Afghan soil
Notwithstanding Pentagon and Tehran's denials that seven US troops were detained by Iranian border guards, debkafile's military and Iranian sources report that Iran did in fact kidnap 5 Americans in Afghanistan nearly a week ago. Tehran denied its own semi-official Fars agency report in the face of a furious reaction from associates of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who said it was leaked deliberately as the president was on the way to New York for the UN General Assembly.
According to our sources, the five Americans were waylaid by Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen who dragged them from Afghanistan across the border into Iran and is holding them prisoner. It happened so fast that the soldiers had no time to draw their weapons in self-defence. It is believed they were either not expecting Iranian gunmen on the Afghan side of the border, or else the assailants were disguised in Afghan army uniforms. The Saravan district where it took place is mountainous and convenient for ambush operations.
Tehran keeps the Afghan-Pakistani borders heavily guarded and under tight surveillance to block entry to US spies and commandos. Their patrols were able to keep track of US movements across the border. At one point, they decided to use this knowledge and capture US security personnel for the purpose of humiliating America and building up a negative public attitude in America toward a possible US military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.
Tehran decided to keep the capture of the five Americans under wraps, while according to debkafile's sources, Washington was made aware of the event. The intention was to keep it dark so as not to spoil Ahmadinejad's and business meetings at the UN assembly.
In the past week, Iranian air patrols, taking off from the Birjand airfield, have intensified their patrols over the Iranian border district with Afghanistan to prevent American over-flights.
Acting Iranian Chief of Staff Gholam-Ali Rashid commented this week: "it is not overstating the fact when we say that we are on the verge of a possible future war." He spoke when questioned about war marches played daily in the public parks of Mashad, capital of Khorassan province in north east Iran.
The capture of American nationals first came to light Sunday afternoon, Sept. 19 when the semi-official Fars news agency reported that Iranian borders guards had recently detained 7 American soldiers accused of illegally crossing the border. This report was swiftly denied by Tehran and the Pentagon.
debkafile's military sources report the incident marks a sharp escalation in a developing crisis between Iran and the United States involving hostage-taking and suspected spies. Last week, for half a million dollars, Tehran released Sarah Shourd, one of three American hikers Iran seized near the Iraqi border a year ago and threatens to try as spies.
The latest incident was published by Tehran as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad headed for New York to attend the UN Disarmament conference. Saturday, Sept. 18, he touched down in Damascus for talks with Syrian president Bashar Assad. Then, during a stopover in Algiers, he demanded that the US release 8 Iranian detainees. He did not identify them, but debkafile reports they are Revolutionary Guards officers and Iranian agents who were working with Iraqi terrorist rings when they were captured by US troops in Iraq.
For some time, Iran has accused the American CIA of training and assisting the separatist Baluchi Jundallah organization stage attacks on Iranian targets from Pakistani territory. But this is the first time Tehran has released information about captured Americans.
There were conflicting reports Saturday about a clash involving Jundallah operatives and an alleged attempt to abduct Iranian Guards men. The Baluchi organization claimed six Iranians were seized in the southeast, while Iranian sources in Tehran and Baluchestan said that five Iranian troops were kidnapped and released in a battle in which one Iranian soldier and three kidnappers were killed.
The next day, Tehran reported – then denied – detaining 7 American soldiers, followed by the Pentagon.