The 10 American sailors captured by Iran have been freed, U.S. and Iranian officials said.
The sailors were captured on Tuesday after their two naval boats entered Iranian waters near Farsi Island, in the Persian Gulf.
The wait for the sailors’ release yesterday morning dragged on for hours, with Iranian officials interrogating the sailors about their motives and demanding a U.S. apology.
But an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps spokesman told state-run media the boats strayed into Iranian waters by accident.
“The evidence suggests that they unintentionally entered the Iranian waters because of the failure of their navigational system,” IRGC spokesman Ramazan Sharif said.
So on Wednesday afternoon, the sailors traveled on their two boats to a rendezvous point in the Persian Gulf, a U.S. official said. They were escorted by Iranian boats, which turned back when they reached the rendezvous point in international waters.
The sailors then boarded the guided missile cruiser USS Anzio, where they were undergoing medical checks Wednesday.
“There are no indications that the Sailors were harmed during their brief detention,” the U.S. Navy said in a statement.
The Navy said it would investigate how the sailors ended up in Iranian territory.
Secretary of State John Kerry expressed “gratitude to Iranian authorities for their cooperation in swiftly resolving this matter,” in a statement Wednesday.
“As a former Sailor myself, I know the importance of naval presence around the world and the critical work being done by our Navy in the Gulf region,” he said, adding later, “That this issue was resolved peacefully and efficiently is a testament to the critical role diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe, secure, and strong.”
The vessels were en route from Kuwait to Bahrain and were sailing near Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf.
A senior defense official said the boats were in the area of Farsi Island for refueling, but it’s not clear whether they actually refueled — raising the possibility they ran out of fuel.
Another senior defense official said no distress call came from the boats.
Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported that the boats were “rescued” by Iranian navy sailors.
There is nothing to indicate the capture was a hostile act on the part of Iran, a senior Obama administration official said.
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