US-contracted ship fires on Iranian boat: report
Nick Juliano
Published: Friday April 25, 2008

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US military personnel aboard a cargo ship traveling into the Persian Gulf fired nearly a dozen warning shots at Iranian speed-boats Thursday, according to several breaking news reports.

Reports of the incident prompted a nearly immediate spike in oil prices, which jumped $3 per barrel.

The ship was contracted by the U.S Military Sealift Command, which delivers supplies to US troops overseas. The showdown involved a cargo ship known as Westward Venture and several Iranian speedboats, reported MSNBC's Jim Miklaszewski.

"Since it is chartered by the US military it then essentially becomes a US military vessel, with the necessary armaments on board to protect the cargo and the crew on board," he reported.

The cargo ship apparently was sailing into the Strait of Hormuz, site of a showdown between US Navy warships and Iranian speedboats in January.

More than one Iranian "fast boats ... were approaching this vessel at a high rate of speed," in the Persian Gulf, MSNBC's Pentagon correspondent said. US military personnel on board fired eight .50-caliber rounds and three warning shots from M-16s when the boats got within 100 yards of the cargo ship. After the shots were fired, the ships veered off, according to MSNBC.

Miklaszewski said the military believes the Iranians were mostly trying to harass the ship and perhaps see how close they could get before being fired upon. He said those types of boats could not do much damage unless they got nearly right up next to the ship and were packed with explosives.

Last month, another US cargo ship fired on an Egyptian boat that was coming towards it in the Suez Canal. Egyptian officials said on man on the boat was killed, although the US Navy claimed it just fired warning shots. The speedboat that was fired on apparently carried local merchandise which the Egyptian men sold to sailors on larger ships.

The latest incident is also the second showdown with Iran in the Persian Gulf. It follows a January showdown in which the US Navy said Iranian speedboats threatened its ships in the Strait of Hormuz. That incident was later revealed to have been overblown, and some saw echoes of the Gulf of Tonkin incident that drew America deeper into Vietnam.


With wire reports