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10 Sep, 2017 15:47

Iran says it turned away US vessel in Persian Gulf

Iran says it turned away US vessel in Persian Gulf

An Iranian warship warned an approaching US vessel to turn away in the Persian Gulf, local media report. The US denied direct contact with the Iranian vessel.

The incident took place when Iranian fishing boat Shams suffered an engine malfunction 72km off the coast of the Iranian port town of Jask, near the Strait of Hormuz, Fars and Tasnim news agencies reported on Sunday. The vessel was requesting the navy’s help, and Iranian missile-launching warship Falakhan was sent on a rescue mission.

Shortly after the distress signal, a US warship “with the body number 02” approached the boat, but “it was shooed away after receiving a warning” from the Iranian missile-launching warship, Falakhan, according to Fars. 

Iranian media did not specify when exactly the incident took place.

Later on Sunday, the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) denied any direct contact with Iranian forces, Reuters reported. According to the US Navy, the USS Tempest, the second Cyclone-class patrol ship, which was operating in the Gulf of Oman September 6, received a distress call from an unidentified vessel. The boat was 75 nautical miles (138km) from the US vessel.

In the meantime, the Nordic Voyager, a motor vessel which was closer to the boat than the Tempest, offered help to the Iranian vessel. The Nordic Voyager, a crude oil tanker, is currently sailing under the flag of the Cayman Islands, according to vesselfinder.com. 

READ MORE: US warships ‘harassed’ by Iranian forces in Strait of Hormuz – navy commanders

The Tempest offered support to the Nordic Voyager but the latter declined the offer, NAVCENT said.

The Nordic Voyager then coordinated additional Iranian Navy assistance for the vessel, the USS Tempest heard over the radio.

“At no time was there any direct contact between the US and Iranian maritime forces,” NAVCENT spokesman Chloe Morgan said, as cited by Reuters.

This year alone has seen a number of similar confrontations between the US and Iran in the region. Last month, a US F/A-18E Super Hornet jet attempting to land on an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf had to maneuver to dodge an Iranian drone, which came within 31 meters, according to US officials. 

US described the interaction as "unsafe and unprofessional.

In July, US warships, including a US Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, fired several warning shots at Iranian patrol boats in the Persian Gulf in what Tehran called a “provocative and unprofessional move.”

Also in July, the USS Thunderbolt fired several warning shots from a heavy machine gun in response to an Iranian vessel’s “provocative actions,” according to Pentagon officials.
In March, American officials claimed that US warships were “harassed” by Iranian forces in the Strait of Hormuz. Washington then said that the Iranians had their weapons uncovered, manned, and armed.