U.S. forces raided the Iranian consulate in Iraq's northern city of Arbil and arrested five of its staff members, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported on Thursday.
After disarming the consulate's guards and breaking into the gate, U.S. troops entered the office building early Thursday morning, IRNA said, confirming Iraqi state television's earlier reports.
The Iraqi state television reported earlier that Multi-National Forces in Arbil detained staff members of the Iranian consulate there and confiscated computers and some documents.
The U.S. troops arrested five staff members and confiscated computers and documents, IRNA quoted "reliable sources" as saying.
The Iranian Embassy in Baghdad sent a letter to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry Thursday morning to protest against "the U.S. illegal move" and call on the Iraqi government to help secure immediate release of the five people, IRNA said.
According to Iran's state television, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said that U.S. forces in Iraq " bear full responsibility for the fate of the abducted diplomats."
Top envoys of the Iraqi Embassy as well as the Swiss Embassy, which takes care of the U.S. interests in Iran, were summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry for explanations, the television said.
Quoting its reporter in Arbil, the television said that forces under the control of Iraq's Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani had tried to prevent U.S. troops from taking away the diplomats, deeming the U.S. move as an affront to the authority of the self- rule regional government.
Arbil is in the Kurdish-controlled north of Iraq, 350 km north of Baghdad. Under an agreement between Baghdad and Tehran, Iran set up its consulate in the city in 2006 to facilitate cross- border visits of their citizens.