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19 Jun, 2017 18:06

Saudi Arabia claims detention of 3 Iranian elite officers, Tehran says its fishermen

Saudi Arabia claims detention of 3 Iranian elite officers, Tehran says its fishermen

Saudi Arabia detained three members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards near the offshore Marjan oil field, the Saudi Information Ministry has said in a statement. A senior Iranian official dismissed the claim, however, stating the three detained men were fishermen.

The incident happened on Friday, when three boats entered Saudi territorial waters and headed towards offshore structures at the oilfield, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Monday, citing an official source.

“On Friday, 16th June, three small boats, bearing red and white flags, entered the Saudi territorial waters in the Arabian Gulf. They headed at speed towards platforms of Saudi oil field of Marjan. Immediately, the Saudi naval forces fired warning shots, but the boats did not respond,” SPA quoted the source as saying.

One of the boats was intercepted, while the two others managed to get away. The seized boat contained a stash of “weapons for subversive purpose” and had three men onboard. The three men turned out to be members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Saudi Information Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

“This was one of three vessels which were intercepted by Saudi forces. It was captured with the three men on board; the other two escaped,” the statement reads, as cited by Reuters. “The three captured members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are now being questioned by Saudi authorities.”

Iran has meanwhile dismissed Saudi claims of the detention of three Revolutionary Guards. The head of border affairs at the Iranian interior ministry, Majid Aghababaie, said that the three people detained were fishermen from the southern Iranian port of Bushehr.

“There is no evidence that they are military personnel,” ILNA news agency quoted Aghababaie as saying.

The incident comes amid already strained relations between Riyadh and Tehran which have been rapidly deteriorating since the beginning of the Qatar crisis.

On Sunday, Iran has launched six ballistic missiles into Syria, targeting positions of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists in retaliation for the twin attacks in Tehran earlier this month.

The assault was not only aimed at sending a message to IS, but also to the US and Saudi Arabia.Tehran had repeatedly accused the Saudis and Washington of supporting terrorists and trying to destabilize Iran.

“The Saudis and Americans are especially receivers of this message,” Gen. Ramazan Sharif of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) said on Monday, according to state television, cited by AP. “Obviously and clearly, some reactionary countries of the region, especially Saudi Arabia, had announced that they are trying to bring insecurity into Iran.”

On Saturday, Iran said that Saudi coastguard opened fire on two Iranian fishing boats in Persian Gulf, killing one fisherman.

“This Saudi move is not compatible with human principles and even assuming that the boats had crossed Saudi borders due to sea waves, they were not authorized to shoot at the Iranian boats,” Tasnim news agency quoted Iran’s Interior Ministry’s Director General for Border Affairs Majid Aqa Babaei as saying. “This move by the Saudis was incompatible with human and maritime principles.”

It remains unclear whether Iran and Saudi Arabia referred to the same incident or not.