Iran frees British hostages

There was welcome news for the parents of Lowestoft Royal Marine Mark Banks today as the Iranian president announced that all 15 captured personnel are to be pardoned and freed.

There was welcome news for the parents of Lowestoft Royal Marine Mark Banks today as the Iranian president announced that all 15 captured personnel are to be pardoned and freed.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinehjad said they would be taken immediately to Tehran Airport and called their release “a gift” to Britain to mark the birthday of the prophet Mohammed, and Easter. Downing Street welcomed the announcement.

The seven Marines and eight Royal Navy sailors were seized by Iranian coastguards at gunpoint in what the Government insists were Iraqi territorial waters 13 days ago.

News of the promised release came after the UK was said to have begun direct negotiations with the Iranian government.

Mark, 24, is a former pupil of Pakefield Primary and Middle, and Kirkley High schools, and a keen local footballer.

Mr Banks' brother, Neil, 26, said: It's been a really, really difficult time. We didn't think we would ever get to the end of the tunnel, but we are there now.

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“We're absolutely delighted. I can't wait to see that cheeky smile and that laughing face. It has been very distressing and emotional, but we have a good family and good friends, who have helped to see us through.”

Mr Banks said his parents, Allistair, 52, and Penny, 49, were still coming to terms with their 24-year-old son's capture.