Iran seizes 15 British sailors

From the UK Press Association, March 23:

Fifteen Royal Navy sailors have been seized by Iranian warships in Iraqi territorial waters, the Ministry of Defence said.

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has summoned the Iranian ambassador in London to demand their immediate release, a spokesman said.

The incident happened following a routine inspection of a merchant ship off Iraq.

The MoD said the incident happened at around 10.30am local time.

“The boarding party had completed a successful inspection of a merchant ship when they and their two boats were surrounded and escorted by Iranian vessels into Iranian territorial waters,” a spokesman said.

“We are urgently pursuing this matter with the Iranian authorities at the highest level and on the instructions of the Foreign Secretary, the Iranian ambassador has been summoned to the Foreign Office.

“The British Government is demanding the immediate and safe return of our people and equipment.”

The personnel seized were from the Type 22 frigate HMS Cornwall.

A BBC News 24 reporter on the ship, Ian Pannell, said that they had just boarded a dhow.

“While they were on board, a number of Iranian boats approached the waters in which they were operating – the Royal Navy are insistent that they were operating in Iraqi waters and not Iranian waters – and essentially captured the Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel at gunpoint,” he said.

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