- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 2, 2009

BERN, Switzerland — Swiss diplomats are trying to find out what happened to three American hikers reportedly captured in Iran, the Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

The Swiss Embassy in Tehran is working to learn more about the Americans’ fate through its contacts with the Iranian Foreign Ministry, spokeswoman Nadine Olivieri said.

Iranian guards detained the three American tourists Friday after they allegedly crossed the border from northern Iraq, Iran state TV said.

One of the missing Americans has been identified as Joshua Fattal by Kurdish authorities. Laura Fattal, his mother, who lives in Elkins Park, Pa., issued a brief statement Sunday.

“My husband and I are only concerned about Josh” and the two others, she said.

Related article: Iran media reporting arrest of 3 Americans

Switzerland has represented U.S. interests in Iran since American diplomats were taken hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran 30 years ago, and the State Department has said it asked the country to intervene in this case.

“Our embassy in Tehran is in contact with the Iranian Foreign Ministry and is trying to get a confirmation of the situation,” Ms. Olivieri told the Associated Press.

Swiss diplomats have asked for consular access to the Americans if their presence in Iran is confirmed, she said.

The State Department knows about Switzerland’s efforts, said spokesman Robert Wood in Washington.

Iran’s state owned Arabic-language al-Alam TV station cited a “well-informed source” in the Interior Ministry as saying the three American hikers were detained Friday.

The Americans had traveled with a companion to Turkey, then entered Iraq on Tuesday through the border crossing at Zakho and traveled to Sulaimaniyah, according to the Kurdish regional government. On Thursday, the three took a taxi to the resort town of Ahmed Awaa, it added.

The regional government’s statement said the three got lost during an excursion and were detained by Iranian authorities at the border.

A Kurdish security official says the three contacted a fourth member of their group shortly before their capture to say they had entered Iran by mistake and were surrounded by troops.

The fourth traveler, Shon Meckfessel, stayed behind because he had a cold, according to his grandmother, Irene Meckfessel of Carmichael, Calif. She said he called her Saturday from the American Embassy in Baghdad.

Mr. Meckfessel was studying Arabic, his grandmother said. “He’s very much interested in people and languages, and he’s working on a Ph.D. in linguistics,” she said.

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