American military officials said yesterday that their Navy had rescued an Iranian fishing boat commandeered by suspected Somali pirates more than 40 days ago.
The rescue comes amid escalating threats from Iran that it could block the Strait of Hormuz – a key oil route – in response to stronger economic sanctions against Tehran over its disputed nuclear enrichment programme.
US officials said that American forces flying off the destroyer USS Kidd responded to a distress call from the Iranian ship. A US Navy team boarded the ship on Thursday and detained 15 pirates who had been holding the 13-member Iranian crew hostage.
The rescue may come as an embarrassment for Tehran as it attempts to flex its own military might with a series of naval exercises near the Strait of Hormuz.
One sixth of the world's oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz. Iran's threat to close the passage if the West imposes sanctions on its oil exports unsettled an already nervous world oil market.