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Iran shows video of Navy sailor apologizing for intrusion; U.S. says event 'clearly staged'

"We cannot speak for the conditions of the situation or what the crew was experiencing at the time," a U.S. CENTCOM official responded Wednesday.
By Doug G. Ware   |   Updated Jan. 13, 2016 at 9:10 PM

TEHRAN, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- One of 10 U.S. Navy sailors who were briefly detained in the Persian Gulf for drifting into Iranian territorial waters appeared on Iranian television Wednesday, apologizing for the intrusion in an act U.S. officials believe was "clearly" coerced.

The sailor appears in the video saying he's sorry that he and his crewmates entered Iranian waters in the gulf, which U.S. officials said occurred due to a mechanical problem.

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"It was a misunderstanding," the sailor said on the video. "We did not mean to go into Iranian territorial water."

The unidentified sailor stated in the footage that his Iranian captors behaved in a "fantastic" manner during the crew's time there and thanked them for their "hospitality."

"It was a mistake. That was our fault, and we apologize for our mistake," he added.

The crew members were aboard two small patrol vessels in international waters in the Persian Gulf Tuesday when one of the boats developed a mechanical issue and drifted beyond the Iranian boundary. The soldier in the video said members of the Revolutionary Guard approached them with their weapons drawn.

U.S. officials communicated with the Iranian government immediately after the crews were detained and the matter came to a resolution. The sailors, nine men and one woman, were released early Wednesday.

U.S. military officials said the video, which was posted online after the sailors' release, appeared authentic but claimed the apology was obviously staged.

"Clearly this staged video exhibits a Sailor making an apology in an unknown context as an effort to defuse a tense situation and protect his crew," an official at U.S. Central Command said. "We cannot speak for the conditions of the situation or what the crew was experiencing at the time."

An Iranian news agency reported Tuesday that the sailors had been detained for "snooping," but neither U.S. or Iranian officials made any statements to support that claim.

The crews were released and escorted to the USS Anzio, which was waiting just beyond the Iranian boundary in the gulf.

The Revolutionary Guard said it released the sailors after receiving an apology from the U.S. government -- a claim disputed by administration officials.

"I can say unequivocally, the U.S. government did not apologize to the government of Iran in any way during the course of this," a senior State Department official said Wednesday. "We did provide context, we did explain that this was basically a routine transmission that had not intended to end up anywhere on Farsi Island or in Iranian territorial waters."

Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who spoke to Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif several times during the sailors' capture, said Wednesday it appears the servicemen and women had been "well taken care of" during the ordeal.

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