The 10 US Navy sailors detained and then interrogated after drifting into Iranian waters have been freed, according to state media reports after Iran claimed US officials "apologised".
They were captured on Tuesday evening as the two boats they were on sailed developed mechanical problems and lost contact with the Pentagon.
The detainees include nine men and one woman, who were held overnight at an Iranian base on Farsi Island.
The Islamic Republic News Agency reported the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), a branch of Iran’s armed force, had taken the 10 sailors to "international waters and freed there".
The Islamic Republic News Agency reported the IRGC said the US boats entered Iranian territorial waters “illegally”, but confirmed a “broken” navigation system is what led the US sailors into Iranian waters.
The chief of the IRGC said the American boats showed “unprofessional acts” for 40 minutes before being picked up by Iranian forces after entering the country’s waters.
Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, said: “We’ve received assurances from the Iranians both that our sailors are safe, that they’re being afforded the proper courtesy that you’d expect.”
American officials said the Riverine boats were not part of the carrier strike group and were on a training mission. The boats are reportedly not considered high-tech and do not contain any sensitive equipment.
Ramezan Sharif, a spokesman for the IRGC, said earlier on Wednesday: “If information taken through interrogations reveals that their trespassing has been done for intelligence work and irrelevant jobs, officials will definitely take the necessary actions,” Fars, Iran’s semi-official news agency reported.
“What others say about the sailors’ prompt release is their speculation and we don’t confirm or deny it."
Officials also confirmed Tehran assured them the crew and vessels would be returned “safely and promptly.”
But Tehran is reportedly asking Washington for an apology for violating their territorial waters.
The incident comes after Iran’s launch of a test rocket near US warships passing through the Strait of Hormuz, late last month.Reuse content