US commander demoted over Iran incident

Washington, May 13 (IANS) The US Navy has demoted the commander of 10 American sailors who in January entered Iranian territorial waters and were briefly detained.

Commander Eric Rasch was fired from his job as the commanding officer of Coastal Riverine Squadron 3 and temporarily reassigned, the Navy announced on Thursday.

Rasch had taken command of the unit shortly before the incident occurred, CNN reported.

Captain Gary Leigh, the commander of the overall group, made the determination after a preliminary investigation into the incident.

The sailors — nine men and a woman — were detained on January 12 when one of their two vessels broke down while training in the Gulf.

They were then taken to Farsi Island, in the middle of the Gulf, where Iran has a naval base.

Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps naval units captured the sailors when six of their armed vessels surrounded two US Navy riverine boats.

The sailors were blindfolded and repeatedly separated and interrogated and were released after about 15 hours.

The group had set out for Bahrain from Kuwait.

The full investigation is expected to be completed at the end of May.



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