U.S. Navy ship fires warning shots near Iranian vessel, official says

Last Updated Jul 25, 2017 9:14 AM EDT

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A U.S. Navy patrol boat fired warning shots Tuesday near an Iranian vessel that American sailors said came dangerously close to them during a tense encounter in the Persian Gulf. Iran’s hard-line Revolutionary Guard later blamed the American ship for provoking the incident. 

The encounter involving the USS Thunderbolt, a Cyclone-class patrol ship based in Bahrain as part of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, is the latest confrontation between Iranian vessels and American warships.

The Thunderbolt was taking part in an exercise with American and other coalition vessels in international waters when the Iranian patrol boat approached it, 5th Fleet spokesman Lt. Ian McConnaughey said. The Iranian ship did not respond to radio calls, flares and horn blasts as it came within 150 yards of the Thunderbolt, forcing the U.S. sailors aboard to fire the warning shots, McConnaughey said.

“After the warning shots were fired, the Iranian vessel halted its unsafe approach,” the lieutenant said in a statement, adding that the Iranian vessel created “a risk for collision.” Large ships can’t stop immediately on the water, meaning getting close to each other risks a collision.

Video released by the Navy included a sailor giving a position off the eastern coast of Kuwait as the Iranian vessel sat directly in front of an American warship’s bow. Another video included images of the Iranian ship off the Thunderbolt as its horn blared. The sound of machine gun fire followed.

Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard instead blamed the Thunderbolt for the incident in a statement, saying the American vessel moved toward one of its patrol boats. It said the Thunderbolt fired into the air “with the intention to provoke and create fear.”

Iran and the U.S. frequently have tense naval encounters in the Persian Gulf, nearly all involving the Revolutionary Guard, a separate…

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