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U.S. ship fires 30 warning shots as Iranian speedboats get close

The incident comes days after the U.S. intercepted thousands of weapons from Iran in the North Arabian Sea that were bound for the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The patrol boat United States Coast Guard Cutter Maui navigates through the Arabian Gulf on Jan. 24, 2019.
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Maui navigates through the Arabian Gulf on Jan. 24, 2019.Spc. Meleesa Gutierrez / U.S. Naval Forces Central Command

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Coast Guard cutter fired about 30 warning shots after Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboats came close to U.S. Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz, the Defense Department said Monday.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the Coast Guard cutter Maui fired two volleys from a .50-caliber machine gun Monday when two Revolutionary Guard fast boats "operated in an unsafe and unprofessional manner in close proximity" to six U.S. vessels, including the submarine USS Georgia.

Two Revolutionary Guard speedboats broke away from a group of 13, according to the Pentagon, and went to the opposite side of the U.S. formation. They approached Maui and a Navy ship, the USS Squall, at more than 32 knots with their weapons uncovered and manned.

The Maui fired its first volley when two of the Iranian vessels approached within 300 yards and the second when the pair approached within 150 yards. After the second volley, the Revolutionary Guard vessels left, Kirby said.

The U.S. naval vessels were escorting the submarine as it traversed on the surface.

In a statement to Iranian media, the IRGC Navy called the U.S. account of the incident “untrue,” said the Iranian vessels had maintained the distance required by law, and advised the U.S. to “avoid unprofessional behavior and obey maritime laws and regulations in order not to jeopardize the Persian Gulf security.”

The U.S. last week intercepted thousands of weapons from Iran in the North Arabian Sea that were bound for the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Last month, there were two tense incidents in the Persian Gulf between U.S. and Iranian vessels.

On April 27, a U.S. Navy ship fired warning shots near three Revolutionary Guard boats that came within less than 70 yards. On April 2, Revolutionary Guard ships repeatedly crossed in front of U.S. Coast Guard ships at close range over three hours.

The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow body of water that connects the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman between Iran on one side and the United Arab Emirates and Oman on the other.

Dan De Luce contributed.