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Iran launches helicopter search for kidnapped Italians: report

TEHRAN, June 17 (AFP) - Iran has sent out helicopters to join the search for three Italians kidnapped four days ago after receiving information about the kidnappers' hideout, the press reported Thursday.

"We have received some clues regarding the whereabouts of the kidnappers," said Mohammad Ali Tohidi, governor of the southern city of Bam where the three Italians were seized on Tuesday.

The government-run newspaper Iran reported that dozens of security forces were searching the desert region in the province of Kerman using helicopters and special desert vehicles.

An interior ministry official said Wednesday there were indications that "bandits and drug traffickers" were involved in the abduction, adding that a public announcement would be made soon.

The three Italians -- engineers Lorenzo Termite and Riccardo Pasinato and technician Giuseppe Zizza -- were kidnapped during a visit Sunday to the ancient citadel in Bam.

"The Italian group was picnicking in a park across from the site when they were approached by a car with several men in civilian clothes," Tohidi told Iran newspaper.

"The civilians were armed and began shooting in the air before asking three of the Italians to get into their car ... but there was no violence," he said, adding that it was the first case of kidnapping of foreign nationals in the region.

The Italians work for the Danieli steel works in the central Iranian city of Yazd.

The kidnappings occurred only a few days after an an extensive army-led operation against drug traffickers and bandits in the region.

The desert region around Bam is regarded as dangerous territory because of the high incidence of drug-trafficking from Pakistan and Afghanistan.


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