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Mechanical Failure Led Boats To Iranian Waters, U.S. Says In New Account

Two riverine command boats like this one were taken into custody by Iran, along with 10 U.S. sailors.
MC2 Ecklund
U.S. Navy
Two riverine command boats like this one were taken into custody by Iran, along with 10 U.S. sailors.

The United States Central Command is releasing new details about how two American Riverine Command Boats with 10 American sailors ended up in Iranian waters last week.

According to the account released by CENTCOM on Monday, one of the boats' diesel engines began to have trouble while it traveled from Kuwait to Bahrain. The crew began troubleshooting and the second boat also stopped.

Iranian authorities had said that a "broken navigation system" had led the boats into Iranian waters, but this account contradicts that.

"This stop occurred in Iranian territorial waters, although it's not clear the crew was aware of their exact location," CENTCOM said in a press release. "While the [U.S. boats] were stopped and the crew was attempting to evaluate the mechanical issue, Iranian boats approached the vessels."

The two sides traded words but not fire. Armed Iranian military personnel boarded the two American vessels while other Iranians kept watch behind machine guns mounted on their vessels.

At gunpoint, the Americans were taken to a small port facility on Farsi Island.

In a video released by Iranian state television, an American sailor is seen apologizing for the incursion. After about 15 hours of detention, the sailors were released.

CENTCOM says there are no indications that the sailors were physically harmed by Iran and an inventory of the boats found that no weapons were missing but two SIM cards "appear to have been removed from two handheld satellite phones."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is an international correspondent for NPR. He was named NPR's Mexico City correspondent in 2022. Before that, he was based in Cape Town, South Africa.
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