US navy rescues Iranian hostages held by pirates
LAST UPDATED: 01/06/2012 19:12
13 Iranians redeemed in Arabian Sea; rescue conducted by same aircraft carrier group Iran warned away from Gulf.
Iranian-flagged fishing dhow in Arabian Sea Photo: REUTERS
WASHINGTON - The same US aircraft carrier group that Iran warned not to return to the Gulf has rescued 13 Iranians held hostage for weeks by pirates in the Arabian Sea, the Pentagon said on Friday.
rescue operation took place on Thursday, when forces with the USS John
C. Stennis carrier strike group received a distress call from the master
of the Al Molai, an Iranian-flagged fishing vessel, who said he was
being held captive by pirates.
'Iran ready to renew nuclear talks with powers'
US forces also detected a suspected pirate skiff alongside the Al
Molai. The pirates had apparently been using the vessel as a "mother
ship" to conduct operations.
"The Al Molai had been taken over by
pirates for roughly the last 40-45 days," Josh Schminky, a Navy
criminal investigative service agent aboard the guided-missile destroyer
USS Kidd, said in a statement.
"They were held hostage, with
limited rations, and we believe were forced against their will to assist
the pirates with other piracy operations," he said.
Pentagon, spokesman Captain John Kirby said the crew of 15 pirates, all
believed to be Somalis, were now being detained aboard the Stennis.
United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with Tehran,
and the State Department said there had been no official communication
with Iran about the rescue, which it described as a "humanitarian
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a
news briefing that the United States was reviewing options for
prosecuting the pirates.
"We're consulting with international
partners. You know, sadly, this is not a new thing. We have more than
1,000 pirates who've been picked up at sea who are under prosecution in
some 20 countries. So this is always a question of where to send them
and who will do the prosecution," she said.
Iran ratcheted up
tensions earlier this week by threatening to take action if the Stennis
returned to the Gulf after departing on December 27.
Major General Ataollah Salehi said on Tuesday: "I recommend and
emphasize to the American carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf ...
we are not in the habit of warning more than once."
announced plans on Friday to hold new naval exercises in the Strait of
Hormuz next month, the latest in a series of forceful gestures in the
world's most important oil shipping lane.
It was not clear
whether Iran's navy was aware of the rescue operation but the freed
Iranian hostages, now on their way back home, had thanked the US crew,
the Navy said.
"The captain of the Al Molai expressed his sincere
gratitude that we came to assist them. He was afraid that without our
help, they could have been there for months," said Schminky.
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