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US Coast Guard ship fires warning shots near Iranian vessel

Tehran rejects Washington's account of events and says US engaged in 'risky and unprofessional behaviour'
The Pentagon said the IRGC Navy boats approached the seven US vessels at high speeds, closing within 150 yards.
The Pentagon said the IRGC Navy boats approached seven US vessels at high speed, closing within 150 yards (Reuters)

The Pentagon has said that a US Coast Guard ship in the Strait of Hormuz fired a series of warning shots after 13 vessels from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy came close to it and other US Navy vessels. Tehran has rejected the US version of events.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Monday the IRGC Navy boats approached a group of seven US vessels at high speed, closing within 140 metres (150 yards) before one of the US vessels fired 30 shots from a 50 caliber machine gun. After a second round of shots, the boats moved away.

Tehran said on Tuesday that it was a "false narrative", saying its vessels warned the US Navy to stop its "provocative and aimless shooting".

The Iranian navy confirmed it had encountered the seven US vessels in the incident, but said it warned them "while maintaining the legal distance ... against their risky and unprofessional behaviour, after which they continued on their way".

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It said in a statement that such US behaviour included "flying helicopters, firing flares, and aimless, unnecessary and provocative shooting".

"It is the Americans who, through their illegitimate presence, have become the centre of instability, the production of threats and the emergence of insecure threats in the region, including in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf," the IRGC said in a statement.

The US Navy ships included the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey, which just a day earlier had intercepted an arms shipment aboard a vessel in the Arabian Sea. The destination of the weapons was not immediately clear.

It was the second time in two weeks that a US ship has opened fire to warn vessels belonging to Iran's IRGC, according to the Pentagon.

On 26 April, an American warship fired warning shots when Iranian boats came too close to a patrol in the Gulf.

That incident was the first of its kind in nearly four years. The US Navy released black-and-white footage of the encounter in international waters in the northern reaches of the Gulf near Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.

While the US Coast Guard is largely dedicated to protecting American shores closer to home, it established a base of operations in Bahrain in 2002 during the US war in Iraq.

The USCG Patrol Forces Southwest Asia is the largest Coast Guard unit outside of the US, and plays a "key role in maritime security" in and around the Gulf.