Gulf & Middle East
Freed British marines fly home
Apr 5, 2007 - 12:46:34 PM

Tehran, April 5 - The 15 British seamen released by Iran after the two-week long detention flew home Thursday morning. The released sailors and marines, including a woman, boarded the morning flight of British Airways from Tehran to London, the official IRNA news agency said.

The seamen were freed, after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced their release as a 'gift to the British people' Wednesday.

'The amnesty was granted - on the auspicious occasion of the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammad and the upcoming Easter feast,' Ahmadinejad said in a press conference Wednesday.

Relieved by their release British government greeted the decision.

'I'm glad our 15 service personnel have been released. Their release will come as a profound relief not just to them but to their families who have endured distress and anxiety,' British Prime Minister Tony Blair said.

The British seamen were arrested from a British patrol boat on March 23 in the Shatt al-Arab waterway, triggering a diplomatic standoff between Tehran and London.

Iran alleged that the marines crossed illegally into the country's territorial waters while Britain insisted that they were outside Iranian waters.

Before leaving Tehran, the released British marines received gifts from the Iranian president and the Islamic Revolution's Guards Corps -, IRNA said.

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