A U.S. Navy inventory of the two American Riverine Command Boats (RCBs) that Iran captured last week found SIM cards missing from two handheld satellite phones, according to an account of the incident released by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).
“A post-recovery inventory of the boats found that all weapons, ammunition and communication gear are accounted for minus two SIM cards that appear to have been removed from two handheld satellite phones,” reports CENTCOM.
According to the account of the Jan. 12 incident, one of the RCBs’ diesel engines began experiencing a mechanical issue, which caused the crews to stop and begin troubleshooting. The second boat also stopped. Ten sailors were onboard the two vessels.
“This stop occurred in Iranian territorial waters, although it’s not clear the crew was aware of their exact location,” reports CENTCOM. “While the RCBs were stopped and the crew was attempting to evaluate the mechanical issue, Iranian boats approached the vessels.”
“While the RCBs were stopped and the crew was attempting to evaluate the mechanical issue, Iranian boats approached the vessels,” it adds. “Based upon initial operational reports, the first boats on scene were two small craft with armed personnel on board. Soon after, two more Iranian military vessels arrived on scene also with armed personnel on board.”
On their way from Kuwait to Bahrain on Jan. 12, the two boats were expected to refuel at 2 p.m. alongside the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Monomoy.
“The planned transit path for the mission was down the middle of the Gulf and not through the territorial waters of any country other than Kuwait and Bahrain,” notes CENTCOM.
Initial operational reports from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT’s) “showed that while in transit from Kuwait to Bahrain the RCBs deviated from their planned course on their way to the refueling,” it adds. “The command investigation will determine what caused the change in course and why the RCBs entered into Iranian territorial waters in the vicinity of [Iran’s] Farsi Island.”
The two sides reportedly exchanged words, but not fire. Asked whether or not the 10 U.S. sailors defended themselves or attempted to prevent their capture, the Pentagon told Breitbart News last week it did not know.
“Armed Iranian military personnel then boarded the RCBs, while other Iranian personnel aboard the Iranian vessels conducted armed over-watch of the boats with mounted machine guns,” reports CENTCOM. “At gunpoint, the RCBs were escorted to a small port facility on Farsi Island where the U.S. Sailors disembarked and were detained for approximately 15 hours.”
“At this point there are no indications that the Sailors were physically harmed during their detainment,” it adds. “The Navy command investigation will focus on the Sailors’ treatment while in Iranian custody, including any interrogation by Iranian personnel. All indications are that the RCB crews were detained by Iranian military personnel operating from Farsi Island.”
A video released by Iranian state television shows an American sailor apologizing for purportedly infringing upon Iran’s sovereignty.
Iran turned over custody of the 10 sailors and their two boats were turned over to the custody of the U.S. Navy last Wednesday, less than 24 hours after they were detained.
“Other Sailors took charge of the RCBs and continued transiting toward Bahrain, the boats’ original destination,” notes CENTCOM.
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command received a report Iran was questioning those onboard soon after 2 p.m., when they were supposed to refuel. A few minutes later, CENTCOM lost communications with the boats.
“Immediately, NAVCENT initiated an intensive search and rescue operation using both air and naval assets including aircraft from USS Harry S. Truman and the U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard, U.K. Royal Navy and U.S. Navy surface vessels,” points out CENTCOM. “At the time of the incident, two carrier strike groups were operating nearby. USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group was 45 miles southeast of Farsi Island and Charles de Gaulle carrier strike group was 40 miles north of Farsi Island.”
“NAVCENT attempted to contact Iranian military units operating near Farsi Island by broadcasting information regarding their search and rescue effort over marine radio, and separately notified Iranian coast guard units via telephone about the search for their personnel,” it adds.
Nearly four hours after CENTCOM lost communications with the two boats, the Iranians told the U.S. Navy cruiser USS Anzio that the 10 Sailors were in their custody and were “safe and healthy.”