The story of 10 U.S. sailors’ release from Iranian custody took a new turn late Wednesday, when Iranian state television aired video of what appeared to be the early moments of the crew's capture.
The sailors were seen kneeling in surrender position on a boat deck with their hands on their heads, as an American flag fluttered from the rear of the vessel.
A separate video, also aired by Iranian state television, appeared to show one of the sailors thanking the Iranians for their "hospitality" and apologizing for Tuesday's incident, in which two U.S. boats entered Iranian waters near Farsi Island, site of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps base.
The images swept through social media, with many describing the treatment of American service members as demeaning.
"Iran held and humiliated our sailors--knowing they can get away with anything as long as Obama is in office," U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Republican presidential candidate, said in a tweet.
U.S. Central Command spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Ben Tisdale said the video "appears to be authentic" but said he had no other information about its contents.
"We cannot speak to the conditions of the situation or what the crew was experiencing at the time," Tisdale said in a statement. "The crew is currently undergoing the reintegration process and we will continue to investigate this incident. What matters most right now, however, is that our sailors are back safely."
The video depicts seized weapons and ammunition laid out on a platform and scenes from inside a boat, including shots of a U.S. Navy uniform, a storage room and racks of equipment, along with a scene of an Iranian officer in a green beret and fatigues examining a document as he sits in a pilot’s chair.
In one part, Americans are seen being served food in a room, while someone flips through a number of U.S. passports, presumably belonging to the sailors.
One of the captives identified as the commander is interviewed and makes a statement that at times is directed straight at the camera.
“It was a mistake that was our fault and we apologize for our mistake," said the U.S sailor, whose name was not given.
"It was a misunderstanding. We did not mean to go into Iranian territorial water," he said. "The Iranian behavior was fantastic while we were here. We thank you very much for your hospitality and your assistance.”
The U.S. State Department says no formal apology was proffered to Iran.
Vice President Joe Biden said there was "nothing to apologize for."
"When you have a problem with the boat, you apologize the boat had a problem? No, and there was no looking for any apology," Biden told "CBS This Morning." "This was just standard nautical practice."
It is still unclear if the stricken boat suffered mechanical or navigational failure. The two vessels, known as riverine command boats, were en route from Kuwait to Bahrain when U.S. authorities lost contact with them, the Pentagon said.
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