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U.S. Military in Iraq to Release 9 Iranians


The U.S. military says it soon will release nine Iranians detained in Iraq.

Mmilitary spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith said Tuesday the Iranians pose no further threat to Iraqi security. He said two of those being released were detained in Irbil in January, while the others were taken into custody elsewhere at various other times.

The United States has accused Iranians with links to the government in Tehran of supplying weapons and training to Shi'ite militias in Iraq. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last week he has been told that Iran has assured the Iraqi government it will reduce the flow of armor-piercing explosives into Iraq.

In other developments, Iran opened a consulate in Irbil today, in the building that U.S. forces raided in January. Iran has said those detained in the January raid were diplomats and has demanded their release.

Separately, the U.S. military announced the deaths of five American troops in two separate roadside attacks in Iraq. More than 850 U.S. military personnel have died in Iraq this year - the highest annual toll since the war began.

In other news, the U.S. military said Iraqi soldiers operating with coalition forces discovered a mass grave with 22 bodies in the Lake Thar Thar region.

The military said the grave was found Saturday during Operation Fahwat al Asad II, which involved ground and air assault forces in the search for potential insurgent locations.

U.S. military officials said the Iraqi Army and Provincial Security Forces are trying to determine the identities of the bodies and the causes of death, so that their families can be notified.

Separately, the military said coalition forces killed eight terrorists and detained 10 suspects during operations today to disrupt al-Qaida and foreign terrorist networks in central and northern Iraq.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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