Washington - U.S. Navy sailors came to the assistance of two stranded Iranian mariners November 18 and provided them with care until they could be picked up by an Iranian coast guard vessel.
An Iranian vessel picks up two Iranian mariners who had been rescued by the U.S. Navy. U.S. sailors routinely respond to distress calls, the State Department says. (U.S. Navy photo by Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Lasonya Lewis/Released)
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the rescue was a normal response by U.S. naval forces and that the Iranian government had expressed its gratitude for the operation.
"It is something that we do on the high seas ... all the time," Crowley told reporters in Washington November 19.
"Sailors of navies around the world ... respond to distress calls regardless of politics. We were happy to do this," he said, adding, "It's what we do."
He said the Iranian government "acknowledged ... its gratitude for the rescue."
According to a November 18 statement by the U.S. Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, U.S. naval forces were alerted early that morning that a merchant vessel had seen a flare launched from a life raft. In response, a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Oscar Austin, was dispatched to locate the raft.
The two Iranian mariners were found about 1,000 yards (1 kilometer) outside of Iranian territorial waters and were given food and water. An inflatable boat from the Oscar Austin towed the raft closer to the ship "in the event the men required any urgent aid or further assistance," the statement said.
U.S. military personnel contacted the Omani navy to convey the location of the raft to the Iranian coast guard, which sent a search-and-rescue vessel that retrieved the two men. The statement quoted Lieutenant Commander Steve Ansuinni of the Fifth Fleet as saying, "We're glad that we were able to coordinate the rescue of the mariners with the Iranian coast guard."
According to press reports, U.S. sailors previously helped Iranian civilians in August, when an aircraft carrier from the Fifth Fleet rescued eight Iranian fishermen after their boat caught fire.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)
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