American Forces Press Service
March 23, 2007 – The British government is demanding the immediate and safe release of 15 sailors whose boats were surrounded by Iranian navy vessels and escorted into Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf this morning. U.S. Naval Forces Central Command officials said the Royal Navy sailors were engaged in routine boarding operations of merchant shipping in Iraqi territorial waters in support of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1723 and the government of Iraq.
The boarding party had completed a successful inspection of a merchant ship when they and their two boats were surrounded, officials said.
The Iranian ambassador was summoned to the British Foreign Office, and the British government is demanding the immediate and safe return of their people and equipment, officials said.
Royal Navy forces operate as part of Combined Task Force 158. CTF 158's mission is to maintain security and stability in Iraqi territorial waters and to protect the Iraqi oil terminals, under the U.N. mandate set out in the Security Council's resolutions on Iraq.
CTF 158 is commanded by Royal Navy Commodore Nick Lambert and operates as one of three coalition task forces in the Combined Maritime Forces under the leadership of U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and the U.S. 5th Fleet.
(From a U.S. Naval Forces Central Command news release.)
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