Iran has released five British nationals who were detained by Iranian naval forces after their yacht strayed into southern Persian Gulf waters.
“Five Britons, who have been detained after their illegal entrance into the waters of the Islamic Republic near Siri island, were freed a few hours ago,” Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said on Wednesday.
It added that investigations showed that the five UK nationals entered the Iranian waters by mistake.
“They gave the necessary commitments and were freed afterwards,” the IRGC said.
The British Foreign Office also said that Iran confirmed the release of the sailors.
“The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs have confirmed that the five yachtsmen have been released,” a spokesman said in London.
“We understand that they are being towed to international waters and will be met by a representative from the sailing company.”
On Tuesday, the IRGC naval commander Alireza Tangsiri confirmed the detention of the British nationals, saying confronting foreign forces in the Persian Gulf was among the IRGC’s duties.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Wednesday hailed Tehran for handling the issue in a “professional” way.
“I welcome the fact that this has been dealt with in a professional and straightforward way by the Iranian authorities,” Miliband said.
This is the third time that Iran arrests British nationals on its national waters.
In March 2007, the Iranian forces seized eight British Royal Navy sailors and seven marines for trespassing Iran’s territorial waters. They were released the following month.
In a similar incident in 2004, eight British servicemen were detained in the same area but were later freed.
At the time, the Iranian officials confiscated espionage devices from the British nationals.
The UK Foreign Office said in a statement on Monday that five British nationals were detained on November 25 in the Persian Gulf after their yacht reportedly trespassed on the Iranian waters. It said the yacht was en route from Bahrain to Dubai.