WASHINGTON - A new international crisis is brewing in Iran as the Islamic Republic is holding three Americans in detention after they made a wrong turn into Iranian territory.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is appealing to Iran for information about the U.S. citizens.
The three are believed to have been arrested by Iranian authorities last week while hiking near the Iran-Iraq border.
"Obviously we are concerned, and call on Iranian government to help us determine the whereabouts of the three missing Americans," Clinton said.
Secretary Clinton said that Swiss diplomats who represent U.S. interests in Iran are asking officials from the Iranian foreign ministry for details, but have not yet received official confirmation of the trio's arrests.
The detention is not helping the already-strained relations between the U.S. and Iran.
"Iranian security forces have detained three Americans in the west of the country," a PressTV announcer said.
Joshua Fattal, an environmental worker, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd, both writers based in the Middle East went hiking along the northern border of Iraq and wound up in Iranian custody.
Iran state TV said the three were warned not to cross the border, but a fourth friend who stayed behind with a cold said they were lost.
"My husband and I are only concerned about the welfare of Josh, Shane and Sarah," one mother of the detained Americans said.
The Swiss Embassy - on behalf of the United States - is trying to get information from Iran's government, but so far Iranian officials are not saying much -- only that the case is under investigation and will take its "natural course."
Friends and neighbors cannot believe the news.
"I am very worried," friend Nour Chida said. "I think he doesn't fear anything. I'm really worried he's in trouble right now."
"You hear about these things on the news but to actually know a familiar name and to put a face to it that is from our town makes it even more scary," another hometown neighbor said.
The detentions come as political tensions in Iran run high.
The country's supreme leader formally endorsed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a second term Monday, despite widespread protests and internationally condemned brutality that have rocked the country since the elections mid-June.
Iran has accused the U.S. of stoking unrest and experts believe Iran may try to use the three Americans as bargaining chips in the standoff with the U.S. over Tehran's disputed nuclear program.