UK sailors/Marines captured at gunpoint by Iranian Military
Date: Friday, March 23 2007
UK sailors captured at gunpoint
Fifteen British Navy personnel have been captured at gunpoint by Iranian forces, the Ministry of Defence says.
The men were seized at 1030 local time when they boarded a boat in the Gulf, off the coast of Iraq, which they suspected was smuggling cars.
The Royal Navy said the group was on a routine patrol in Iraqi waters and were understood to be unharmed.
But Iranian state television quoted the Iran foreign ministry as saying they had illegally entered Iranian waters.
Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has demanded the immediate and safe return of the HMS Cornwall servicemen.
She added that she had called for a "full explanation" from Iran and had left them in no doubt that she wanted the group and their equipment back immediately.
We understand that they were in two boats that were operating in Iraqi waters
Margaret Beckett, Foreign Secretary
The task force's commander, Commodore Nick Lambert, said he was hoping there had been a "simple mistake" over territorial waters.
"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they [British personnel] were in Iraqi territorial waters. Equally, the Iranians may claim they were in Iranian territorial waters.
"We may well find that this is a simple misunderstanding at the tactical level."
Helicopters had reported seeing two British boats being moved along the Shatt al-Arab waterway to Iranian bases and there had been no evidence of fighting, he added.
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