US ship rescues Iranians at sea, again - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

US ship rescues Iranians at sea, again

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This handout photo provided by the US Coast Guard shows the port beam view of the Iran-flagged Ya-Hussayn in Persian Gulf. (AP Photo/US Coast Guard) This handout photo provided by the US Coast Guard shows the port beam view of the Iran-flagged Ya-Hussayn in Persian Gulf. (AP Photo/US Coast Guard)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. Coast Guard cutter rescued six Iranian mariners from a vessel in distress in the Persian Gulf, the second time in less than a week that the American military has come to the aid of Iranians at sea, an official said Tuesday.

The incident was another reminder of U.S. efforts to demonstrate the humanitarian value of its naval presence in the Gulf, a strategic waterway that the Iranian government has threatened to close in retaliation for international sanctions over its nuclear program.

Last Thursday, the U.S. Navy rescued 13 Iranian fishermen who had been held captive by pirates in the northern Arabian Sea, just outside the Gulf, for more than 40 days. That happened just days after Tehran warned the United States to keep its warships out of the Gulf. The fishermen were sent on their way and the 15 pirates were taken aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.

Tuesday's rescue was the fifth time in 14 months that American naval forces have aided Iranians at sea, according to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. The biggest was on Feb. 3, 2011 when the guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George provided assistance to 16 Iranian mariners on a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman.

In the latest incident, Pentagon press secretary George Little said the Iranians aboard a cargo boat known as a dhow about 50 miles southeast of the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr used flares and flashlights to hail the cutter Monomoy at 3 a.m. local time Tuesday. The vessel's master indicated that his engine room was flooding and "deemed not seaworthy," Little said.

In a more detailed account, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, based in Bahrain, said two of the Iranians were rescued from the dhow and four from a life raft tied to the vessel's stern. After being fed and provided blankets and water, the Iranians were transferred to an Iranian coast guard vessel, the Naji 7.

In its written account, Naval Forces Central Command quoted the dhow's owner, identified as Hakim Hamid-Awi, as telling the Americans, "Without your help, we were dead. Thank you for all that you did for us."

In that account, a civilian interpreter aboard the Monomoy quoted the captain of the Iranian coast guard vessel as saying he "sends his regards and thanks to our captain and all crewmembers for assisting and taking care of the Iranian sailors. Wishes us the best and thanks us for our cooperation."

The Monomoy is assigned to a naval task force of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.


Robert Burns can be reached on Twitter at

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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