Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei awarded medals to five commanders of the Iranian navy for capturing 10 American sailors and their two naval craft last month.
Reuters, citing Iran state media, reported that Khamenei gave the Order of Fat’h (Victory) medal to Admiral Ali Fadavi, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) naval commander, and four other commanders who detained the sailors on January 12.
A message posted to the Twitter account affiliated with Khamenei on Sunday showed the supreme leader awarding the medals to the commanders. The tweet also misidentified the U.S. sailors who were held by Iran as Marines.
Order of Fat'h given by Chief Commander of Armed forces to IRGC Navy commanders who captured intruding U.S. marines. pic.twitter.com/1gkGz2bh2p
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) January 31, 2016
Khamenei previously praised the IRGC naval personnel for their “courage” and “strong faith” in detaining the American sailors for allegedly drifting into Iranian territorial waters after one of their boats encountered a mechanical problem.
“You did an excellent job,” Khamenei recently told the IRGC unit, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency. “Certainly, it was the divine job that sent the Americans straying into our territorial waters only to be promptly captured with their hands behind their heads.”
Iran initially accused the sailors of snooping, which the Pentagon has denied. The sailors were held overnight and released on January 13, after which Iran state media released images of the American sailors in captivity with their equipment, weapons, and other personal items seized.
According to a preliminary report released by the Pentagon following the incident, the Iranian navy arrested the sailors at gunpoint and likely took two SIM cards from phones belonging to the U.S. personnel.
Experts have said that Iran violated international law, particularly the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, by holding the sailors overnight.
The sailors were detained just before the official implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran.