The US Navy encountered Iranian forces in yet another naval clash, the second within days.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said Saturday that a US Navy aircraft carrier fired a warning shot in an “unprofessional” confrontation with Iranian vessels, according to Iran’s official IRNA news agency.
IRNA quoted a statement from an IRGC guard, who claimed that the USS Nimitz and an accompanying ship approached an Iranian offshore oil platform in the Persian Gulf and that a helicopter from the ship hovered near vessels manned by the IRGC.
The report said the confrontation took place Friday afternoon and the US navy ships left the area following the encounter.
The US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said the incident happened while one of its helicopters was on a routine patrol in international airspace. The aircraft saw several IRGC vessels approaching American ships “at a high rate of speed” and sent out flares after receiving no response when it tried to establish communications, the Navy said. That prompted the Iranian boats to halt their approach.
After communications were established, the US saw the Iranians conduct a “gun exercise.” That routine exercise involved firing weapons into the water away from American ships, said Navy spokesman Lt. Ian M. McConnaughey.
The Navy described the encounter “as safe and professional.”
The incident comes after a US Navy patrol boat fired warning shots Tuesday near an Iranian vessel that American sailors said came dangerously close to them during a tense encounter.
Iran and the US frequently have run-ins in the Persian Gulf, nearly all involving the IRGC, a separate force from Iran’s military that answers only to the country’s supreme leader.
The US Navy recorded 35 instances of what it describes as “unsafe and/or unprofessional” interactions with Iranian forces in 2016, compared to 23 in 2015.