Iranian media outlets on Wednesday evening published humiliating pictures of US Navy sailors on their knees with their hands on their head, after they were caught by Iran's Revolutionary Guard on Tuesday when their boats accidentally drifted into Iranian territorial waters.
The 10 sailors were taken into custody at the time, but released on Wednesday after the Iranians determinied they had entered Iranian territorial waters by mistake.
The photos show the American sailors with their hands raised to their heads and on heir knees, while Iranian forces boarded the two US boats. Other photos published in Iran show what are likely the sailors' weapons arranged on the deck after a search by the Revolutionary Guard.
Less than an hour after the photos were published, Iranian state television released video footage of one of the American commanders speaking after his arrest. He apologizes for entering Iranian territorial waters and thanks the Iranians for their "hospitality."
The pictures come just hours after US Secretary of State John Kerry thanked Iran for its cooperation in the release of the Navy sailors. "“I want to express my gratitude to the Iranian authorities for their cooperation in swiftly resolving this matter," he said.
“That this issue was resolved peacefully and efficiently is a testament to the critical role diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe, secure, and strong,” Kerry added.
Confirming the sailors' safe release, the Pentagon said there were no indications they were harmed while in Iranian custody.
The incident came on the heels of an incident in late December when Iran launched a rocket test near US warships and boats passing through the Strait of Hormuz.
Meanwhile, Iran was expected to satisfy the terms of last summer's nuclear deal in just days. Once the UN nuclear agency confirms Iran's actions to roll back its program, the United States and other Western powers are obliged to suspend wide-ranging oil, trade and financial sanctions on Tehran. Kerry recently said the deal's implementation was "days away."
On Wednesday, Kerry said that the Iranians had told the US that the central part of their Arak nuclear reactor had been removed.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.