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Iranians Detain Soldiers, Chopper Crash in Afghanistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2003 – Iranian forces released four U.S. soldiers and three civilians unharmed yesterday, U.S. Central Command officials said today.

The seven were in small boats going up the Shatt al Arab waterway when the Iranians detained them. Two other boat drivers remain in Iranian hands, command officials said.

The soldiers were from the 1092nd Engineer Company, and one civilian is a U.S. citizen and contractor who works for Kellogg, Brown and Root. The nationalities of the other two civilian boat captains and the two still-detained boat drivers are unclear.

The Shatt al Arab is a narrow waterway. Iran controls the east bank, and Iraq the west. The Shatt al Arab is Iraq's only connection to the Persian Gulf. "The boats may have strayed in Iranian waters," said Central Command spokesman Marine Maj. Brad Lowell.

The men and their boats were released and U.S. Navy craft located them in the Shatt al Arab. Central Command officials would not comment on why the Iranians detained the boats. It was the first incident of its kind.

The men were reported missing on Sunday.

Action continues in Afghanistan. Two pilots were unhurt after their AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed near Orgun-E. The chopper was supporting combat operations, but it does not appear to have crashed due to enemy action, said Combined Joint Task Force 180 officials at Bagram Air Base.

"Although the primary focus here is on civil affairs and humanitarian activities, we conduct combat operations every day," said Army Col. Rod Davis, task force 180 spokesman. "We continue to pursue al Qaeda and Taliban elements capturing, killing and denying them sanctuary."

There are just over 6,000 American service members in Afghanistan. The major combat element is a brigade from the 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, N.Y. They are replacing soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C.

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