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U.S. Navy fires on small boats thought to be pirates

From Barbara Starr
CNN Pentagon Correspondent

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A U.S. Navy oiler ship was forced to fire its guns against a half dozen small power boats that approached it as the ship passed through the Straits of Hormuz on April 23 in the Persian Gulf near Iran.

The Navy has not publicly disclosed the incident. But a defense official Friday confirmed to CNN the details of what took place, and suggested the boats may have been piloted by bandits intending to raid a ship.

The USNS Walter S. Diehl (T-AO193) was passing through the area when the six small power boats sped alongside. The Diehl first fired flares to warn the small boats away, but according to reports filed on the incident, the boats did not back down.

At that point, officials told CNN, a gunner on the deck of the Diehl opened fire with a .50-caliber machine gun. Those on deck said it appeared the men on the small boats tried to surrender, but the Diehl's gunner kept firing as the ship moved ahead. The small boats then sped off.

Officials say they do not believe this was a terrorist incident, but may have been local pirates who may not have realized the ship they were trying to board was a U.S. Navy vessel.

The Diehl is a support vessel with the Military Sealift Command, and does not look like a U.S. Navy warship at first glance.

Since the October 2000 bombing in Yemen of the USS Cole by terrorists who attacked on a small boat, Navy ships are under orders to not allow small unidentified boats to approach them.


• U.S. Navy

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