Tuesday 21 November 2017

US destroyer fires warning shots at Iranian patrol boats

A fighter from the Free Syrian Army plays with a dog at a
checkpoint captured from Isil near the town of Qabasin, 30km from Aleppo. Photo: Nazeer al-Khatib/AFP/Getty Images
A fighter from the Free Syrian Army plays with a dog at a checkpoint captured from Isil near the town of Qabasin, 30km from Aleppo. Photo: Nazeer al-Khatib/AFP/Getty Images

Robert Burns and Josie Ensor Beirut

A US Navy destroyer fired multiple warning shots at Iranian patrol boats as they sped toward the destroyer at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, US officials have said.

The crew of the USS Mahan fired the warning shots after attempting to establish contact with the Iranians and after dropping smoke flares, the officials said. The US Navy occasionally has confrontations with Iranian naval forces in the Persian Gulf, but they do not usually reach the point of prompting warning shots.

The US officials said the Mahan was in the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday when the Iranian boats sped toward it and failed to halt despite "cautionary moves".

There were conflicting initial reports on whether the Americans and Iranians had established radio communication before the warning shots were fired.

Elsewhere, US special forces carried out a secret raid in eastern Syria on Sunday, killing a number of Isil fighters.

Commandos parachuted down from four Apache helicopters around 2.30pm on Sunday, according to local activists. They set up roadblocks around the town of al-Kubar, between the Isil-held cities of Deir Ezzor and the group's de facto capital Raqqa. At least 25 jihadists were killed in the two-hour operation, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.

Some of the captives, and the bodies of those killed, were flown out of the country. It is not yet clear what their target was, but some local activists suggested the raid may have been a hostage rescue bid.

"Our information is that it was to rescue hostages, and that one of the Daesh [Isil] leaders went without force, so we believe that the arrests of members by coalition came by accident," an activist with the anti-Isil Sound and Picture organisation said.

"There is an important secret prison in the area. And we think there were westerners in it, but we don't have names because Isil put the area under siege after the landing."

US Central Command confirmed that "an operation was conducted in that area".

The US-led coalition has carried out only a handful of such raids in Syria and Iraq since joining the war against Isil. In July 2014, Delta Force commandos attempted a rescue of American hostages held by Isil in a prison in Raqqa. However, they arrived too late and US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid worker Kayla Mueller had been moved days earlier. (© Daily Telegraph London)

Irish Independent

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