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'Incident' in Gulf waterway near Iran: UK forces

Written by: Staff

Basra (Iraq), Mar 23: British forces today said there had been ''an incident'' in the northern Arabian Gulf after an Iraqi sailor reported seeing up to seven British or American military personnel being seized by an Iranian ship.

''There has been an incident somewhere in the north of the Persian Gulf,'' British military spokesman Major David Gell said in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, without elaborating.

He said he did not know whether any British or American servicemen were involved.

The sailor, who works on a merchant vessel, said the incident took place yesterday in the Shatt al-Arab waterway that marks the southern stretch of Iraq's border with Iran. His account could not be immediately confirmed.

The sailor said six or seven foreign military personnel were on two small boats that stopped to check two Iranian ships in the Siban area of the waterway, near the al-Faw peninsula that leads into the northern Arabian Gulf.

While they were doing this, an Iranian naval vessel pulled alongside and detained them. There was no sign of any violent confrontation, he said.

Iraq and Iran have a long history of disputes along the waterway. Iran briefly seized three British naval patrol boats in the area in June 2004.

In January 2006, the Iranian coastguard stopped three Iraqi vessels Tehran said had crossed into Iranian waters, prompting Iraqi officials to accuse Iran of taking hostage nine Iraqis working on the vessels.


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