BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq released five Iranian diplomats late Thursday, more than two years after U.S. troops captured them in northern Iraq, state television announced.
The men -- whom the United States accused of being agents of Iran's Revolutionary Guards -- were transferred from American to Iraqi custody earlier Thursday.
The Iranians then were turned over to Iran's embassy in Baghdad, the state broadcaster Al-Iraqiya announced late Thursday.
Denis McDonough, the Obama administration's deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, confirmed the transfer of the Iranians to Iraqi authorities. He spoke at a briefing during the G-8 summit in Italy.
The men were picked up in Irbil, a city in Iraq's Kurdish region, on January 11, 2007.
The U.S. military said they were thought to be connected to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, a group believed to be providing funds, weapons, roadside bomb technology and insurgent training.
The arrests came as Washington was pouring additional troops into the war in Iraq in an effort to stem the sectarian warfare ravaging the country. The Bush administration accused the men of supporting Shiite Muslim militias, but Iran said they were diplomats.
Iran protested the arrests, accusing U.S. troops of breaking international law by raiding an Iranian consulate. U.S. officials said the men were taken at a liaison office that lacked diplomatic status.
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