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Passengers, Crew of Boarded U.S. Ship Say They Feared Kidnapping With PM-Persian Gulf, Bjt

January 14, 1986

FUJAIRA, United Arab Emirates (AP) _ Twelve American passengers on the President Taylor today said they feared the Iranian marines who boarded and searched the U.S. freighter would kidnap them.

″We heard about hostages so often that we were scared of becoming captives when the gun-toting Iranians boarded the ship,″ said Frances Kirner, of Belmont, Calif., told The Associated Press.

She and her husband Harry, both in their mid-60s, said they were in the cabin just below that of Robert Reimann, captain of the 19,203-ton freighter, when it was intercepted Sunday 20 miles off Oman.

The Kirners said six armed Iranian marines boarded while a seventh stayed on the gunboat that pulled alongside the 610-foot-long freighter.

″The Iranians said good morning to us,″ she said. ″They were polite, smiling, but not friendly smiles.″

Mrs. Kirner said she overcame her fear, picked up her camera and ″started shooting snapshots″ of the intruders, who did not object.

Her husband, who identified himself as a former U.S. Marine major, said that ″what happened was very stupid, very frightening. The interception was pointless, because the ship was carrying nothing but food to most of the countries that it visited. There were no arms aboard.″

The ship was carrying a load of grain from Pakistan to Fujaira when it was intercepted. Its agents said it was to take a shipment of soybeans to India and Indonesia after a two-week stay.

The freighter dropped anchor late Sunday. The captain and 44 American crewmen spent a day on board as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, George Quincey Lumsden Jr., interviewed them.

The 12 American passengers checked into a hotel where they were interviewed by the AP.

Their voyage, originating in Seattle, Wash. on Sept. 29, was ″perfectly peaceful″ until the Iranians boarded just before they entered the Strait of Hormuz.

Crew member Joseph Valverdo, of New York, said two Iranians spoke fluent English, and one who acted as interpreter said he was educated in South Carolina.

The 56-year-old Valverdo said, ″When it comes to Iranians, you cannot possibly know what they are going to do, so we were scared. Now that it is over, I can say it was an exciting experience. When they came, many of the crew members thought it was all a joke.

″From what we hear, the Iranians are very unpredictable, and they could blow your brains out without batting an eye,″ added Valverdo.

Another crew member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the crew was afraid an Iraqi warplane would attack the Iranian gunboat and the freighter would be caught in the cross fire.

The captain, furious to hear some passengers had described the Iranians as polite, shouted: ″Polite? How polite. To me it was an act of piracy.″

Reimann, of Middletown, R.I., said the Iranian boat was nine miles away when ″they talked on VHF (radio) and ordered me to stop for inspection. We kept on talking for 10 or 15 minutes. I told them I can’t stop, I am a merchant vessel in international waters.

″They threatened that drastic action would be taken unless I stopped, then came closer with their 175-foot-long corvette and 50-caliber twin guns and repeated they would take drastic action unless I stopped,″ he said. ″So I stopped and allowed them to come aboard,″ Reimann said.

Reimann said the Iranians came to the bridge and ″tried to apologize, which I did not accept. I considered this an act of piracy.″

They checked the cargo manifest, then the chief steward escorted them when they opened three containers in which they found cotton, the captain said.

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