US sailors held captive by Iran were held at gunpoint - US military

American sailors put their hands on their heads after they were captured by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps on Jan 12.
American sailors put their hands on their heads after they were captured by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps on Jan 12.PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The 10 US sailors who were briefly detained by the Iranian military last week were held at gunpoint and had a verbal exchange with Iranian personnel before they were released, the US military said Monday.

In its most comprehensive timeline of the incident to date, the US military said the sailors also had two SIM cards pulled out of their satellite phones, but that there was no gunfire exchange. There were no details on the verbal exchange.

The U.S. sailors, who were aboard two patrol craft, were detained by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Jan 12 when they inadvertently entered Iranian territorial waters. They were released the next day.

The US military said the Americans were intercepted after the diesel engine in one of their boats developed a mechanical problem, although it was unclear if the crew was aware of their precise location.

The sailors were released unharmed and are in good health.

Their prompt release came just days before world powers lifted crippling sanctions on Iran in return for Teheran's implementation of a deal curbing its nuclear program.

Secretary of State John Kerry said on CNN that once he heard about the sailors' detention, he was "very frustrated and angry", and that "I raised it immediately with the Iranians".

He declined to give the content of his conversation, but added: "Suffice it to say that I made it crystal clear how serious this was. It was imperative to get it resolved."