London, 10 Jan – An American Navy warship fired warning shots at Iranian ships that were hurtling towards it in the Strait of Hormuz, according to Defence Department officials on Monday.
The four Iranian boats came within 900 yards of the U.S.S. Mahan, a guided-missile that was escorting two other ships; one an amphibious warship carrying 1,000 Marines and a Navy oiler, on Sunday.
The US ship only fired the three warning shots, after the Iranian ships failed to respond to the radio call and flares sent out by the Americans.
The shots, fired with a .50-calibre machine gun, was accompanied with smoke grenades from a Navy helicopter. The Iranian vessels were undamaged and did not return fire.
Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said: “This was an unsafe and unprofessional interaction, and that is due to the fact that they were approaching at a high level of speed, with weapons manned, and disregarding repeated warnings.”
He continued: “We had a significant number of these before. They had largely stopped.”
The Iranian authorities have failed to comment on this incident, but last month, they indicated that they would be stepping up military action in the Strait of Hormuz area.
It is the first time that the US Navy has fired warning shots at an Iranian boat since August 24.
In 2016, there were 35 close encounters between American and Iranian vessels; up from 23 in 2015.
Donald Trump has threatened to take more military action against Iran.
He said: “With Iran when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.”
The most serious incident was last January when Iran detained 10 US sailors for ransom.