US warship fires warning shots at Iranian boats in Strait of Hormuz

The small Iranian rapid attack boats were manning their weapons as they sped toward the American ship.

WASHINGTON // A US warship fired warning shots at four Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels that approached it at high speed in the Strait of Hormuz.

US defence officials said the shots fired by the destroyer USS Mahan on Sunday put an end to the incident, which they denounced as "unsafe and unprofessional".

They said the crews of the small Iranian rapid attack boats were manning their weapons as they sped toward the American ship.

Mahan established radio communications with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) and "issued multiple radio and visual warnings to remain clear", a US defence official said.

"Disregarding the warnings, the IRGCN vessels continued to directly approach Mahan at a high rate of speed," the official said.

"Mahan then fired three warning shots with a crew-served 50-calibre machine gun, and the IRGCN vessels arrested their high-speed approach."

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards are a paramilitary force that answers directly to the Islamic republic’s supreme leader.

Their boats periodically approach US warships in international waters and the Strait of Hormuz, ignoring US radio messages and giving little indication of their intentions.

General Joe Votel, the commander of US forces in the region, has expressed concern about the risk of military escalation triggered by rogue commanders.

In January last year, the Iranians briefly captured the crew of two small US patrol boats that strayed into Iranian waters.

The 10 US sailors were released 24 hours later.

At the time of Sunday's incident, the Mahan was with two other US navy ships, the USNS Walter S Diehl and the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island.

* Agence France Presse

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