Navy Destroyer Howard Aids Iranian Fishermen After Pirate Attack

In this file photo, USS Howard (DDG 83) operates in the East China Sea during the U.S.-Republic of Korea exercise Ssang Yong in April. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Christian Senyk)
In this file photo, USS Howard (DDG 83) operates in the East China Sea during the U.S.-Republic of Korea exercise Ssang Yong in April. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Christian Senyk)

U.S. Navy and Japanese forces joined up this week to save an Iranian fishing boat that was reportedly attacked by pirates off Yemen.

According to a release from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, the Navy received a call for help from the Iranian Coast Guard on Monday. The Iranian Coast Guard reported the pirate attack, south of Socotra, Yemen, and requested assistance for the boat.

NavCent then coordinated with the European Union Naval Force, which investigated the fishing vessel via a patrol aircraft, according to the release.

NavCent sent the destroyer Howard and the Japanese destroyer JS Amagiri, currently attached to Combined Task Force 151, to the location to investigate and help.

According to the release, a Navy boarding team from the Howard provided medical aid to three civilian mariners; provided food and water to the boat crew; and made repairs to the vessel.

The aid effort came near the end of a year that has seen rising tensions and hostility in the region, with Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps boats harassing Navy ships on multiple occasions. The mission demonstrates positive international collaboration in spite of recent incidents of aggression.

In late July, the Navy Cyclone-class patrol ship Thunderbolt was forced to fire warning shots from its .50-caliber machine gun to stop the approach of an Iranian vessel that was determined to be nearing the U.S. ship in an "unsafe and unprofessional" manner.

A NavCent spokesman, Lt. Ian McConnaughey, said at the time that the boat's behavior was "not in accordance with international law and created an unnecessary risk of collision that could have led to potential miscalculation and escalation."

McConnaughey also noted that Navy vessels had had other interactions with smaller Iranian vessels that were deemed safe and professional.

"It is our desire to see more of that type of behavior going forward," he said.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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