Captured navy crew return to UK

Navy crew

The crew are being flown by helicopter from Heathrow

The 15 Royal Navy sailors and marines held captive in Iran for almost two weeks have landed in London.The crew, freed by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a “gift” to the British people on Wednesday, touched down at Heathrow Airport at 1200 BST.

They are now being flown to a Royal Marines base in Devon where they will be reunited with their families.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was “glad” the crew had been returned “safe and unharmed”.

In a statement given outside Downing Street as the plane touched down, Mr Blair said there had been “no deal” with the Iranians to secure their release.

He contrasted the rejoicing at the return of the crew with the “sober and ugly reality” of the deaths of four British soldiers in Iraq in what he described as a “terrorist act”.

He repeated allegations that there were “elements of the Iranian regime” that were “financing, arming and supporting terrorism in Iraq”.

De-briefing

The navy personnel arrived at Tehran Airport early on Thursday in a fleet of official cars after 13 days in Iranian custody.

At about 0800 local time (0530 BST) they boarded a British Airways flight bound for London.

CAPTURED NAVY PERSONNEL

Chris Air, 25, from Altrincham in Cheshire

Mark Banks, 24, of Lowestoft, Suffolk

Paul Barton, of Southport, Merseyside

Arthur Batchelor, 20, of Plymouth

Felix Carman, 26, of Swansea

Christopher Coe, 31, of Huddersfield

Dean Harris, 24, of Carmarthen, west Wales

Andrew Henderson

Simon Massey

Danny Masterton, 26, of Muirkirk, Ayrshire

Adam Sperry, 22, of Wigston, near Leicester

Nathan Summers, of Hayle, Cornwall

Joe Tindell, 21, of south London

Faye Turney, 26, originally from Shropshire

One captive remains unnamed

Profiles of navy personnel

Two versions of events

They are now being flown by helicopter to Royal Marines Barracks Chivenor in Devon, where they will be de-briefed and given thorough health checks.

BBC correspondents say military chiefs will be keen to assess the physical and psychological impact captivity has had on the crew before reuniting them with their families.

Iranian television has broadcast pictures and statements from several members of the crew, including the only woman in the group, Leading Seaman Faye Turney.

Before they left Tehran, she was shown saying: “Apologies for our actions, but many thanks for having it in your hearts to let us go free.”

Commentators are divided over whether the release represents a diplomatic triumph for the UK, or a public relations coup for the Iranian president.

The 15 service personnel had disembarked from HMS Cornwall in the Gulf when they were detained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on 23 March.

The Iranians accused the crew of straying into its waters, although the British have insisted throughout that they were in Iraqi territory.

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