Kurds Cry Foul Over U.S. Raid on Iranian Office A U.S. raid on an Iranian government office in the Iraqi city of Irbil is a violation of the region's sovereignty and of international immunity laws, says the Kurdish regional government. Kurdish officials urged the U.S. military to release Iranian staff arrested in the raid.
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Kurds Cry Foul Over U.S. Raid on Iranian Office

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Kurds Cry Foul Over U.S. Raid on Iranian Office

Kurds Cry Foul Over U.S. Raid on Iranian Office

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President Bush's new plan for Iraq is getting a chilly reception from newspapers around the world. London's Independent, for instance, writes the march of Foley is to continue. You can read a wrap up of world opinion at npr.org.

In last night's speech, President Bush promised a crackdown on what he said are Iranian and Syrian activities in Iraq.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. It will disrupt the attacks on our forces, we will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria and we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advance weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

SIEGEL: Well, just a couple of hours before those remarks by the president, it was early morning in Iraq, U.S. troops raided Iran's consulate in the town of Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan.

NPR's Ivan Watson is in Irbil and filed this report.

IVAN WATSON: The raid was launched just two hours before President Bush went on the air in the U.S. with his new plan for Iraq. It was still dark here. Residents like Architect Mohammad Ahmed(ph) were sleeping when loud noises suddenly broke the pre-dawn silence.

Mr. MOHAMMAD AHMED (Architect): (Through Translator) We were asleep and we were waken up by the noise of helicopters shooting. And even there were airplanes around.

WATSON: The target was Iran's consulate in the center of town says Fouad Hussein, a spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Mr. FOUAD HUSSEIN (Spokesman, Kurdistan Regional Government): They attacked the Iranian consulate here in Irbil, in the city, and it seems they kidnapped - and I call it kidnap - they kidnapped, according to my information, five Iranian diplomats, and they got many documents from the building.

WATSON: This morning, Kurdish security forces blocked off part of the quiet residential street where the Iranian consulate is located. The two-story villa appeared empty. The flag had been removed from the consulate flagpole, and broken glass lay scattered on the street outside. Kurdish officials condemned the raid and called for the quick release of the Iranians.

Unidentified Man #1: This is unacceptable. This is really unacceptable.

WATSON: Again, Kurdistan Regional Government spokesman, Fouad Hussein.

Mr. HUSSEIN: It is strange. It came at the same time when President Bush was announcing his strategy of fighting terrorism somewhere else, but they are coming to the most secure area in Iraq. Instead of going to Ramadi, they are coming to Irbil. I think they have gone the wrong direction.

WATSON: This morning, a few hours after the raid, tensions flared between Kurdish militiamen and American troops at this busy intersection near Irbil Airport.

Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)

WATSON: Eyewitnesses say Kurdish security forces - normally close allies of the Americans, surrounded and pointed their weapons at a column of three American Humvees, which Kurdish officials say were not authorized to operate in the area.

The standoff lasted more than an hour, until a fleet of four American helicopters showed up to evacuate most of the American troops. Near the scene of the incident, this Kurdish militiaman says the face-off could have easily resulted in violence.

Unidentified Man #3: (Through translator) We could answer the Americans by weapons, by arrogance, but we did not. We just arrested them. Later, we handed over to the other vehicle.

WATSON: In a statement today, the U.S. military said it captured six individuals around Irbil in, quote, "routine operations." The statement did not identify the individuals by nationality, saying only that they were suspected of involvement in the targeting of Iraqi and U.S.-led foreign forces.

Last month in Baghdad, U.S. forces detained at least five Iranian officials. Washington accused these diplomats and intelligence officers of arming Iraqi militants and planning sectarian attacks. Ivan Watson, NPR News, Irbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.

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