The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has arrested five British nationals for trespassing Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, a senior Iranian naval commander has said.

Commander Ali Reza Tang-siri of IRGC’s naval wing, did not give details about the incident but told Fars news agency that confronting “alien forces and arresting them” falls within IRGC’s mandate. He made that the statement at the southern port city of Bandar Abbas on the Persian Gulf.

Iran’s state-run Press TV said that it is the third occasion when Iran has arrested British nationals in its territorial waters. In March 2007, Iranian forces seized eight British Royal Navy sailors and seven marines for trespassing Iranian waters, before releasing them a month later.

In a similar incident in 2004, eight British servicemen were detained in the same area but were later freed.

Later on Tuesday, Brigadier General Ali Fadavi of the IRGC naval forces said that Iran now possessed the latest combat and defensive military hardware, capable of delivering a “crushing response to any aggressive move.”

Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaie, the chief of staff of President Mahmoud Abbas said that the fate of the five will be decided by the Iranian judiciary, but warned that “our measures will be hard and serious if we find out they had evil intentions.”

The timing of the incident is delicate as it follows fresh tensions between Britain and Iran over the latter’s nuclear programme.

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