Iranian navy arrested British sailors after searching merchant ship

The Iranian navy seized 15 British sailors as they finished searching a merchant ship in Iraqi territorial waters on Friday, the U.S. 5th Fleet confirmed.

The Royal Navy sailors were assigned to a naval task force whose mission is to protect the Iraqi oil terminals and maintain security in Iraqi waters under the U.N. mandate of the Security Council resolutions on Iraq, the fleet said in a statement issued by its headquarters in Bahrain.

"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," the statement said.

The Iranians seized the Britons at 10:30 a.m. Iraqi time (0730 GMT), the statement added.

Britain's Ministry of Defense has already reported the seizure, saying that its government was pursuing the matter with Iran "at the highest level."

"The Iranian ambassador has been summoned to the Foreign Office," the Defense Ministry said in London, reports AP.

"The British government is demanding the immediate and safe return of our people and equipment," the ministry added.

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