Iran says it has seized eight British sailors and three naval vessels that allegedly
strayed into Iranian waters near Iraq.
British military spokesmen say communication was lost early Monday with three
small Royal Navy patrols boats and eight crewmen in the Shatt al-Arab waterway
that divides Iraq and Iran.
A spokesman in Baghdad for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, Brigadier General
Mark Kimmitt, says the British boats were conducting a training exercise.
"This morning at about 0500 [0100 UTC], three boats, eight persons, from
the Royal Naval training team operating out of Basra departed on a mission
for training with their fellows in the Iraqi navy," he said. "We don't have
much more than that."
The British have provided coastal defense training to the Iraqi navy for
the past several weeks in the waters off the southern coast.
An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman says the crew was being interrogated
and an investigation was under way. An Iranian government television station
said weapons, maps and other military items were seized.
British diplomats have been in touch with their Iranian counterparts in London
The incident comes amid new strains in relations between the two countries
after Britain criticized Iran last week for not cooperating sufficiently with
international inspections of its nuclear program.