American hikers detained by Iran after allegedly strayed across the border have been moved to Tehran, according to a report from ABC News, in what may be a signal that their ordeal will continue.
State media confirmed Tuesday that the three Americans who crossed the border from Iraq were arrested for illegal entry and claimed their case is being used by the West for propaganda against Iran.
A newscaster on state television also cast doubt on whether they were hikers who had lost their way, saying Western media had also reported some of them were journalists.
The three were detained on July 31 when they were hiking along the mountainous border area between Iraqi and Iranian Kurdish areas where the frontier is not clearly marked.
"While BBC said they were mountain hikers, some Web sites say they were journalists," said the newscaster on Khabar TV, the main state news channel. "Since occupation of Iraq by the U.S.-led forces, American journalists in Iraq have traveled to neighboring countries illegally."
One of the Americans, Shane Bauer, has been identified as a freelance journalist.
The hard-line Fars news agency quoted the deputy governor of Iranian Kurdistan province as saying the three were detained near the Malakh-Khor border crossing at Marivan town, 370 miles west of Tehran.
"Two of the three are men. They were not interrogated," Iraj Hassanzadeh was quoted as saying, adding that anyone crossing the border illegally would be arrested.
Bauer is a freelance journalist and photographer based in the Middle East who has reported from Iraq, Syria, Sudan's Darfur region and Yemen, according to his Web site. Another one of the detained has been identified by family members as Joshua Fattal. His father, Jacob, told The Associated Press on Monday that he did not have any updates from the State Department about his son, who graduated from the same university as Bauer.
The identity of the third American has not been confirmed, but other media reports have identified her as Sarah Shourd.
In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appealed to Iran on Monday for information on the three Americans to help determine their whereabouts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.