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10 U.S. Riverine Sailors Released from Iranian Custody

Riverine Command Boats (RCB) 802 and 805 participate in a bi-lateral exercise with Kuwait naval forces in the Persian Gulf in 2015. US Navy Photo

Riverine Command Boats (RCB) 802 and 805 participate in a bi-lateral exercise with Kuwait naval forces in the Persian Gulf in 2015. US Navy Photo

Ten sailors who were detained by Iranian forces were released on Wednesday morning, according to the U.S. Navy.

The sailors left Farsi Island at 03:43 a.m. EST aboard the two riverine command boats (RCB) they were operating before a mechanical failure led at least one of the two boats to drift into Iranian waters, according to a statement from U.S. 5th Fleet.

The boats were transit from Kuwait to the U.S. naval base in Bahrain.

“The sailors were later transferred ashore by U.S. Navy aircraft, while other sailors took charge of the RCBs and continued transiting toward Bahrain, the boats’ original destination,” read the statement.

There was “no indications that the sailors were harmed during their brief detention,” US Fifth Fleet said in a separate statement to The New York Times. The service will “investigate the circumstances that led to the sailors’ presence in Iran.”

Secreatary of Defense Ash Carter released a statement Wednesday morning in which he appreciated “the timely way in which this situation was resolved… I want to personally thank Secretary of State John Kerry for his diplomatic engagement with Iran to secure our sailors’ swift return.”

After it was clear the Iranians had detained the sailors, Kerry had reportedly called Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and talked through the release of the sailors.

The Iranian FARS news agency said the forces on Farsi Island, where the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) has a base, had kept the boats global positioning system to prove the sailors were trespassing.

In 2007, forces with the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) captured 15 U.K. Royal Navy personnel embarked in a small boat from HMS Cornwall in international waters.

The IRGCN is separate from the regular Iranian Navy and closely tied to the country’s sectarian Islamic hierarchy.

In April, IRGCN forces seized the merchant ship Maersk Tigris and held the ship for a number of days.

The following is the complete statement from U.S. 5th Fleet

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) — Ten U.S. Navy Sailors safely returned to U.S. custody today, after departing Iran. There are no indications that the Sailors were harmed during their brief detention.

The Sailors departed Farsi Island at 8:43 a.m. (GMT), aboard the two Riverine Command Boats (RCB) that they had been operating when they lost contact with the U.S. Navy. The Sailors were later transferred ashore by U.S. Navy aircraft, while other Sailors took charge of the RCBs and continued transiting toward Bahrain, the boats’ original destination. The Navy will investigate the circumstances that led to the Sailors’ presence in Iran.

Categories: Foreign Forces, News & Analysis, Surface Forces, U.S. Navy
Sam LaGrone

About Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He was formerly the U.S. Maritime Correspondent for the Washington D.C. bureau of Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Navy International. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.