Iranian state television reported Monday that Iranian forces had seized three British naval vessels on the Iraqi border and arrested their crews, according to wire reports.
Iran’s Arabic-language al-Alam news channel reported that the boats had been seized on the Shatt al-Arab waterway, where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers empty into the Persian Gulf and which also serves as the southernmost border between Iraq and Iran.
“The Iranian navy has confiscated three British boats that entered Iranian territorial waters” Sky News’ Web site quoted an Iranian official as telling al-Alam, “arresting the crew of eight people.”
The sources added that “weapons and maps” had been found on the boats, and that the crews had admitted making a “mistake.”
It also said the ships were confiscated at about 11 a.m. (2:30 a.m. EDT) between the Bahmanshir and Arvand rivers, which would put them in the Shatt al-Arab east of the Iraqi city of Faw. The broadcast gave no further details.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said it was looking into the report. A spokesman said on condition of anonymity that there were no British warships on the Shatt al-Arab, but that there were some smaller craft there.
“We are assisting the Iraqi water police there so it may be one of those vessels,” he said. “We don’t know.”
The exact location of the Iraq-Iran border on the Shatt al-Arab has often been contested by both countries, and the area was the scene of heavy fighting during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.
Iraq has been under pressure from Western countries in recent months to disclose more details about its possible nuclear-weapons program.