The U.S. military has released its first official account of Iran’s capture and release of 10 American sailors whose vessels entered Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf last week.
U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, on Monday provided a timeline of the events, but did not say how the two U.S. Navy boats ended up in foreign waters on their journey from Kuwait to Bahrain in a routine exercise. The sailors are currently in “good health,” CENTCOM said.
CENTCOM said the small boats stopped in the Gulf because of a “mechanical issue in a diesel engine” in one of the vessels. “This stop occurred in Iranian territorial waters, although it’s not clear the crew was aware of their exact location,” the statement said.
The two riverine command boats departed Kuwait at 9:23 a.m. GMT on January 12, the statement said. They were scheduled to stop and refuel alongside the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Monomoy at about 2 p.m. But at approximately 2:10 p.m., Navy command received a report that the sailors were being questioned by Iranians. By 2:45 p.m., the military lost all communication with the boats.
Navy command launched search-and-rescue operations soon after, deploying aircraft from USS Harry S. Truman and nearby Navy vessels. The Navy tried to contact Iranian military units operating near the Gulf’s Farsi Island over marine radio and telephoned Iranian coast-guard units. At 6:15 p.m., U.S. Navy cruiser USS Anzio got word from the Iranians that the sailors were in Iranian custody and were “safe and healthy.”