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US Navy rescues 13 Iranians

Frees fishermen held captive by pirates for more than a month

Written by New York Times | Aboard The Fishing Vessel Al Mulahi |
January 8, 2012 3:56:42 am


Senior Iranian military officials this week bluntly warned an American aircraft carrier that it would confront the “full force” of the Iranian military if it tried to re-enter the Persian Gulf.

On Friday,Fazel Ur Rehman,a 28-year-old Iranian fisherman,had a warmer greeting for the carrier task force. “It is like you were sent by God,” said Rehman,huddled under a blanket in this vessel’s stern. “Every night we prayed for God to rescue us. And now you are here.”

In a naval action that mixed diplomacy,drama and Middle Eastern politics,the aircraft carrier John C Stennis broke up a high-seas pirate attack on a cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman,then sailors from an American destroyer boarded the pirates’ mother ship and freed 13 Iranian hostages who had been held captive there for more than a month.

The events began Thursday morning when the pirates attacked a Bahamian-flagged ship,the motor vessel Sunshine,unaware that Stennis was steaming less than eight miles away.

It ended Friday with the tables fully turned. The captured Somali pirates,15 in all,were brought aboard the USS Kidd,an American destroyer traveling with the Stennis. They were then shuttled by helicopter to the aircraft carrier. This fishing vessel and its crew,provided fuel and food by the Navy,then set sail for its home port of Chah Bahar,Iran.

The rescue,210 miles off the coast of Iran,occurred against a tense political backdrop. On Tuesday the Iranian defense minister and a brigadier general threatened the Stennis with attack if it sought to return to the Persian Gulf,which it had left roughly a week before. The warning set up fears of a confrontation over the vital oil shipping lanes of the Strait of Hormuz. None of that tension was evident at sea. The Sunshine,a 583-foot cargo ship carrying bulk cargo from Calais,France,to Bandar Abbas,Iran,continued its journey. The freed hostages,Iranian citizens,greeted the American sailors with wide-eyed relief.

Tehran welcomes ‘humanitarian’ bid
Iran on Saturday welcomed the US Navy’s rescue of 13 Iranian fishermen. Spokesperson of the Iranian Foreign Ministry,Ramin Mehmanparast,was quoted by state TV’s Al-Alam Arabic channel as saying the rescue was a “humanitarian” gesture by the American warship and Iran welcomes that. The hard-line Fars news agency,however,called the operation a “Hollywood dramatisation of a routine incident”. AP

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