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A Spaniard headed for Qatar disappeared without a trace in Iran

Spain’s Santiago Sanchez, documenting his journey on foot from Madrid to Doha for this year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar, has been missing since entering Iran three weeks ago, the Associated Press reported, citing BTA.

The man, who is experienced in long treks, a former paratrooper and a keen football fan, was last seen in Iraq after crossing 15 countries. He has been documenting his journey in detail on a popular Instagram account for the past nine months. However, his publications suddenly stopped on October 1, when he crossed from Iraq to Iran through the northwestern Iranian border.

His family said his daily WhatsApp messages stopped on the same day. Several weeks have passed since then and his relatives fear the worst.

The parents of 41-year-old Sanchez reported his disappearance to the police and the Spanish Foreign Ministry.

However, Spanish authorities say they have no information on his whereabouts. They said Spain’s ambassador to Iran had taken up the matter.

So far, Iran’s foreign ministry has not returned calls for comment on the case.

Spain’s foreign ministry said it had registered S├ínchez’s entry across the border into Iran and was not ruling out any possibility.

News of the Spaniard’s disappearance comes at a time when Iran is rocked by mass unrest. The country was gripped by the biggest anti-government demonstrations in more than 10 years after protests erupted on September 16 over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly violating strict Islamic dress codes.

Authorities in Iran have cracked down on protests and blamed foreign enemies and Kurdish groups for fueling the unrest. Iran’s intelligence ministry said nine foreigners, mostly Europeans, had been arrested over alleged links to last month’s demonstrations.

Iran, which has strained relations with the West, has also arrested more than 10 dual nationals in recent years on controversial espionage charges, the AP noted.

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