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Iran 'releases' seized US navy crew and boats

Iran released US Navy crew who had been detained for trespassing its territorial waters [AFP]

Date of publication: 13 January, 2016

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Crew of two US Navy boats held by Iran for trespassing its territorial waters have been released, according Iranian state media.

Ten US sailors and their patrol boats held by Iran's Revolutionary Guards have been released, Tehran has said.

Iran said that investigations showed the crew entered Iranian waters on Tuesday unintentionally, a statement said Wednesday, and that the US issued an apology first.

Washington later confirmed that the crew have been released.

"It was determined that the detained American Marines did not enter Iranian waters intentionally. Following their apology, they have been released to international waters in the Gulf," state television said, quoting Iran's elite guards.

Shortly after, and the first images of the detained sailors emerged. It showed nine men and a woman sitting on Persian rugs in a sparse room.

The two boats that were captured by the guards, were also screened on state TV.

Earlier on Wednesday, Fadavi said the US boats had shown "unprofessional acts" for 40 minutes before being picked up by Iranian forces after entering the country's territorial waters.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had demanded an apology from the US for the navy's "trespassing".

The Ten US navy personnel were picked up on Tuesday and held overnight at an Iranian base on Farsi Island, between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran.

Tehran said the crew and vessels would be returned safely and promptly.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told The Associated Press that the boats were moving between Kuwait and Bahrain when the US lost contact with them.

"We have been in contact with Iran and have received assurances that the crew and the vessels will be returned promptly," Cook said at the time.

US officials said that the crew suffered a mechanical failure causing them to run aground, leading to Iranian military personnel detaining them.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who has forged a personal relationship with Zarif through three years of nuclear negotiations, called him immediately on learning of the incident, according to a senior US official.

Kerry "personally engaged with Zarif on this issue to try to get to this outcome," the official said.

It comes amid rising tensions between the two countries.

In December, Iran launched a rocket test near US warships and boats passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

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