Iranian authorities have acknowledged the rescue of an Iranian fishing vessel by the U.S. Navy in the Arabian Sea.
The 13 Iranians had been held hostage for 40 days by Somali pirates. They somehow managed to send a distress call, which was answered by a nearby U.S. Navy contingent. The Americans reportedly boarded the Iranian dhow Al Molai, freed the 13 Iranian hostages and detained the Somalis.
The rescue was conducted by U.S. personnel assigned to the John C. Stennis aircraft carrier group.
According to reports, the drama unfolded about 210 miles south of Iran’s coast.
A reporter for the New York Times who boarded the dhow with the U.S. navymen said the Iranians expressed enormous gratitude for their salvation -- one fisherman, Fazel Ur Rehman, even said: It is like you were sent by God. Every night we prayed for God to rescue us. And now you are here.”
The U.S. Navy said it provided food and fuel for the Iranians before they set sail for their home port of Chah Bahar, Iran.
Tehran referred to the rescue as a humanitarian gesture.
However, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that Iran had rescued foreign sailors from pirates in the past. He also added that the episode is unlikely to change (i.e., improve) relations between Iran and Washington.
Moreover, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency raised suspicions about the rescue operation, suggesting it resembled “a Hollywood film which seems to have been pre-organized.
Ironically, the rescue came as tensions are rising in the Persian Gulf, where Iranian navy officials are running war drills and have already threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for Western sanctions on Iran.