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Freed British Sailors Detail Captivity in Iran

One day after being freed by Iran, British sailors spoke at a news conference Friday of being tied up, isolated, and threatened by their Iranian captors. A military expert explains how soldiers are trained to deal with being captured and held hostage.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    After 13 days in captivity in Iran, seven of the 15 British sailors and marines described their ordeal publicly for the first time.

  • LT. FELIX CARMAN, Royal Navy:

    I operate out of Frigate Foxtrot 99…

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Lieutenant Felix Carman appeared on Iranian television last week, apparently apologizing for straying into Iranian waters. Today, he said they had done nothing of the kind.

  • LT. FELIX CARMAN:

    Let me make it absolutely clear: Irrespective of what has been said in the past, when we were detained by the IRG, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, we were inside internationally recognized Iraqi territorial waters. And I can clearly state we were 1.7 nautical miles from Iranian waters.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Royal Marine Captain Chris Air described a tense situation when, after a routine inspection of a merchant ship near the Shat al-Arab waterway, they were accosted by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

  • CAPT. CHRIS AIR, Royal Marines:

    Some of the Iranian sailors were becoming deliberately aggressive and unstable. They rammed our boats and trained their heavy machine guns, RPGs and weapons on us. Another six boats were closing in on us.

    We realized that our efforts to reason with these people were not making any headway, nor were we able to calm some of the individuals down. It was at this point that we realized that, had we resisted, it would have been a major fight, one which we could not have won, and with consequences that would have major strategic impacts.

    We made a conscious decision not to engage the Iranians and do as they asked. They boarded our boats, removed our weapons, and steered the boats towards the Iranian shore.

    Let me be absolutely clear: From the outset, it was very apparent that fighting back was simply not an option. Had we chosen to do so, then many of us would not be standing here today. Of that, I have no doubts.

    The Iranian navy did not turn up lightly armed. They came with intent, heavy weapons, and very quickly surrounded us. We were equipped, armed and had rules of engagement for boarding operations in Iraqi water. We were not prepared to fight a heavily armed force, who, in our impression, came out deliberately into Iraqi waters to take us prisoner. Reasoning with the Iranians was our only option.