Ten American sailors who were captured by Iran after being accused of snooping when their boats drifted into Iranian waters have been freed.
The country’s Revolutionary Guards confirmed in a statement on state television that they had been released just a day after they had been detained.
The Pentagon says it lost contact with two small riverine vessels in the Persian Gulf on Tuesday after they were seized by the Islamic republic’s coast guard.
Two U.S. Navy boats moving between Kuwait and Bahrain have been taken into Iranian custody after they drifted into territorial waters. They were reportedly captured and taken onto Farsi Island – an area of land completely cut off to the public because of secret activities carried out by the Iranian government
Riverine: The sailors were captured on board two vessels similar to this one when the incident occured
One of the boats reportedly suffered mechanical issues and drifted into Iranian waters and the sailors were seized.
Their release came after an Iranian official demanded an apology from the U.S. for the incursion and said the sailors would be eventually freed.
However, it was not before the detainees were forced to spend the night at an Iranian base on Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf.
General Ali Fadavi said the American boats had shown ‘unprofessional acts’ for 40 minutes before being picked up by Iranian forces in the country’s territorial waters.
He said: ‘US naval force and their frigate showed an unprofessional behavior and had air and naval moves for 40 minutes in the area.
‘Certainly US presence in Persian Gulf and their passage has never been innocent and we do not deem their passage as innocent.’
Fadavi said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif ‘had a firm stance’ during a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ‘on their presence in our territorial waters and said they should not have come and should apologize.’
Personal relationship: John Kerry (pictured left today in Washington), has forged ties with Iran’s foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif (pictured right earlier this month) through three years of nuclear negotiations
There had been fears that the situation may escalate after Fars news, Iran’s state media, accused the sailors of ‘snooping’.
Revolutionary Guards Navy confiscated GPS equipment, accoridng to Fars, which would ‘prove that the American ships were “snooping” around in Iranian waters.’
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook confirmed the boats were moving near Iranian waters when the US lost contact with them.
Cook says: ‘We have been in contact with Iran and have received assurances that the crew and the vessels will be returned promptly.’
The 10 American sailors were on a training mission at the time, according to NBC News.
They then moved into territorial waters inadvertently before they were captured. The Truman Carrier Strike Group, which is in the vicinity, launched a search and rescue effort, according to the Navy Times.
Secretary of State John Kerry had reportedly been calling his Iranian counterparts to sort out the stand-off.
He has forged a personal relationship with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif through three years of nuclear negotiations.
Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, an NBC News military analyst, said the seizure of American boats is ‘very bad news’ and highlights how the Navy may have failed to have surveillance on their boats.
Quick to climb aboard: Ben Carson was the first Republican presidential candidate to point out the unfortunate timing of the announcement, so close to Barack Obama’s State of the Union address
‘Humiliatingly weak’: Jeb Bush also chimed in, saying Obama needed to stop ‘bargaining’ with Iran
He told MSNBC: ‘We simply can’t allow ground, air or naval units to be seized by a foreign hostile power.
‘I hope they’re back real quickly. This is an affront to our military presence in the Gulf and will unsettle our allies in the region.’
Republican presidential candidates were quick to pile in, blaming President Barack Obama ahead of last night’s State of the Union address.
Ben Carson was first to point out the unfortunate timing, saying on Twitter: ‘White Potus is preparing to talk about his so called ‘accomplishments, 10 of our American sailors are being held by Iran.
Jeb Bush followed suit, saying: ‘If our sailors aren’t coming home yet, they need to be now. No more bargaining. Obama’s humiliatingly weak Iran policy is exposed again.
Marco Rubio added: ‘Iran needs to release them and the boats immediately… Iran is testing the boundaries of our resolve.’
Pentagon officials have received assurances from Iran that the crew and vessels will be returned safely and promptly. There are reports the capture of the boats was a mistake
The Navy’s 5th patrols the Persian Gulf, and has a fleet that includes an aircraft carrier.
Lately there has been several confrontations between Western forces stationed in the area.
Just two weeks ago the Iranian Navy harassed an American carrier and a French frigate in the Strait of Hormuz.
They launched rockets that passed within 1,500 yards of the United States aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman.
On December 31, President Hassan Rouhani ordered the accelerated production of missiles in response to possible new U.S. sanctions.
In a letter to the defense minister published on the president’s website, Rouhani said Iran won’t accept any limitations on its missile program.
Both the U.S. and Iran insist the missile program is not part of a landmark agreement Tehran reached with world powers in July that is to lift international sanctions in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear program.