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All 10 US Navy Sailors Detained by Iran Now Freed, Says State TV

Image: All 10 US Navy Sailors Detained by Iran Now Freed, Says State TV

A U.S. Navy riverine patrol boat like the two seized by Iran. (REUTERS/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zane Ecklund/U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters)

By    |   Wednesday, 13 Jan 2016 06:31 AM

The 10 U.S. Navy sailors detained after their two boats entered Iran's territorial waters have been released, reported Iranian state television.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard said the sailors were released on Wednesday after it was determined that their entry was not intentional, reported The Associated Press.

The nine men and one woman were being held at an Iranian base on Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf after being detained nearby on Tuesday.

The U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet had no immediate comment or confirmation of the release.

Iran's release of the 10 sailors brought a swift end to an incident that had rattled nerves days ahead of the expected implementation of a landmark nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers.

The sailors had been detained aboard two U.S. Navy patrol boats in the Gulf on Tuesday, reported Reuters.

"Our technical investigations showed the two U.S. Navy boats entered Iranian territorial waters inadvertently," the Revolutionary Guard said in a statement carried by state television. "They were released in international waters after they apologized," it added.

IRGC Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi had earlier said that the two U.S. Navy boats entered Iranian territorial waters due to a broken navigation system.

The incident raised tensions between Iran and the United States, which, along with other world powers, reached a deal last year under which Iran will curb its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Some conservatives in both countries, enemies since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, have criticized the deal that is due to be implemented in the coming days.

Iran's armed forces chief, Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, said the incident should demonstrate Iranian strength to "troublemakers" in the U.S. Congress, which has sought to put pressure on Iran after the nuclear deal.

And at a campaign rally, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, who accuses President Barack Obama of being weak on foreign policy, described the incident as "an indication of where the hell we're going".

Attributing the boats' incursion into Iranian waters to a navigation error marked a de-escalation in rhetoric. Earlier, the Guards had said the boats were "snooping" in Iranian territory and said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had demanded an apology from Washington.

The IRGC, the Islamic Republic's praetorian guard, is highly suspicious of U.S. military activity near Iran's borders and many senior officers suspect Washington of pursuing regime change in Tehran.

The Guards operate land and naval units separate to the regular armed forces and stage frequent wargames in the Gulf, which separates Iran from its regional rival Saudi Arabia and a U.S. naval base in Bahrain.

Last month, the U.S. Navy said an IRGC vessel fired unguided rockets near the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the Strait of Hormuz, a critical shipping route for crude oil that connects the Gulf to the Indian Ocean. Iran denied the vessel had done so.

In April 2015, the Guards seized a container ship belonging to Maersk, one of the world's major shipping lines, in the Gulf because of a legal dispute between the company and Iran. The ship and its 24 crew members were released after 10 days.

The Guards have also seized British servicemen on two occasions, in 2004 and 2007, and a civilian British yacht crew in 2009. On each occasion the sailors were released unharmed after several days.Related Stories:

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The 10 U.S. Navy sailors detained after their two boats entered Iran's territorial waters have been released, reported Iranian state television.
us navy, sailors, released, iran
Wednesday, 13 Jan 2016 06:31 AM
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