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10 US Sailors, 2 Small Boats in Iranian Custody after 'Lost Contact'

The Pentagon released this file image of the Riverine Command Boat, two of which entered Iranian territorial waters on Tuesday, resulting in 10 American sailors being held by Iranian authorities. (U.S. Defense Department photo)
The Pentagon released this file image of the Riverine Command Boat, two of which entered Iranian territorial waters on Tuesday, resulting in 10 American sailors being held by Iranian authorities. (U.S. Defense Department photo)

Two U.S. Navy rigid-hulled boats and their crews were being held by Iran Tuesday after apparently becoming disabled while traveling from Kuwait to Bahrain, the Pentagon said.

"Earlier today, we lost contact with two small U.S. naval craft en route from Kuwait to Bahrain," a senior defense Department official said. "We subsequently have been in communication with Iranian authorities, who have informed us of the safety and well-being of our personnel. We have received assurances the sailors will promptly be allowed to continue their journey."

Another official said that the boats may have drifted into Iranian waters near Farsi Island after experiencing mechanical problems. A total of about 10 Navy personnel were believed to be aboard the boats.

Iran's semi-official Fars news agency said that the boats had illegally traveled more than a mile into Iranian territorial waters before being intercepted. Fars said that forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Navy had confiscated GPS equipment to "prove that the American ships where ‘snooping' around in Iranian waters."

At the White House, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said that "We were aware of circumstances surrounding a patrol in the Persian Gulf. We are working to resolve the situation such that, obviously, any U.S. personnel are returned to their normal deployment."

The incident was the latest involving the navies of the U.S. and Iran in the Persian Gulf, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet has its headquarters in Bahrain.

Two weeks ago, Iran in an exercise launched rockets that landed within 1,500 yards of the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com.

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