The U.S. Navy has deployed its Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer, USS Farragut, after an Iranian warship fired shots at a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo vessel while traversing the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian forces were said to have boarded the commercial vessel after firing the shots.
Iran warship fire shots at commercial vessel
According Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren, the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain responded to a distress call coming from M/V Maersk Tigris. He said that at about 2:05 a.m ET, some members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy or IRCGN approached the commercial vessel, fired the shots and boarded the ship.
“The ship’s master was contacted and directed to proceed further into Iranian territorial waters. He declined and one of the IRGCN craft fired shots across the bridge of the Maersk Tigris,” Warren told the press in a briefing.
While Maersk is a Danish company, its cargo ship was sailing under a Marshall Islands flag, according to a report from the Pentagon. The Republic of the Marshall Islands is a sovereign nation and the United States has full authority to secure and defend it against such aggression under a 2004 agreement sealed by the U.S. and the republic. As per the agreement, the U.S. and the Marshall Islands have full diplomatic relations, the Pentagon report said.
Warren said that while the M/V Maersk Tigris was sailing along the Strait of Hormuz, which is within Iranian territorial waters, the cargo ship is making an “innocent passage.”
“Innocent passage” is applied when ships sail using international shipping lanes within the bounds of international rules of the sea.
Warren said officials are still monitoring the situation.
It was a civil matter – Iran
The incident happened at the height of negotiations involving the Iran nuclear deal. However, Iran clarified that the matter was purely civil in nature, with no military or political motivation, Al Arabiya News reported, citing Iran’s Fras news agency.
However, a spokesman for the company that manages U/V Maersk Tigris said the company is equally confused why Iran had behaved that way.
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