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US Navy Fires on Ship in Persian Gulf, One Dead

GAP

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US Navy Fires on Ship in Persian Gulf, One Dead
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By LUIS MARTINEZ (@LMartinezABC) July 16, 2012

An American Navy ship fired on a boat in the Persian Gulf today, killing one person and injuring three others aboard the craft, a U.S. naval official told ABC News.

A spokesperson for the Navy's 5th Fleet, which is based in nearby Bahrain, said that a security team aboard the oil supply ship U.S.N.S. Rappahannock fired a .50 caliber machine gun at a "small motor vessel after it disregarded warnings and rapidly approached the U.S. ship" off the coast of Jebel Ali, a city approximately 30 miles from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

The Navy is investigating the incident as details continue to emerge. A Navy official said the offending vessel was a white pleasure craft, but a UAE official told ABC News it was a fishing boat with four Indians and two Emirates on board. There doesn't appear to be any indication the incident was terror-related, the UAE official said.

The Navy official said it's not uncommon for Iranian speed craft to harass U.S. ships in the region, but in this case the boat wasn't Iranian.

"I can't emphasize enough that this has nothing to do with Iran," the official said.
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Rappahannock’s Gun Team Was In Charge
By Richard Sisk Wednesday, July 18th, 201
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The Navy gun team aboard the oiler Rappahannock acted on its own in opening fire on a fast-closing fishing boat in the Persian Gulf, killing an Indian national and wounding three others, Navy and Sealift Command officials said today.

The “Embarked Security Team” had sole responsibility for protecting the ship, its cargo and crew, and did not need a go-ahead from higher Navy command or even the ship’s civilian captain under the Navy’s rules of engagement for Mideast waters, the officials said.

“A decision by the EST to use force rests with the members of the EST and is done in accordance with the rules of engagement,” said Tom Van Leunen, a spokesman for the Military Sealift Command.

In cases of an approaching vessel ignoring warnings to stay clear, the ship’s master “is relieved of responsibility” for protecting the ship.  The senior member of the EST, who may be an officer or senior enlisted, is then in charge, Van Leunen said.

But the responsibility of the EST on the Rappahannock, commanded by civil service Capt. Robert Seabrook, could also lead to liability, and the gun team might want to consider lawyering up.

India and the United Arab Emirates have begun pressing legal charges in international claims courts, and the fishermen who were aboard the boat raked by .50 caliber machinegun fire claim that the Rappahannock gave no warning.

And Dubai’s police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, said the deadly incident “was clearly a mistake” by the Americans that could lead to criminal charges in the UAE.

The shooting in the Persian Gulf off Dubai on Monday pointed up that dual chains of command co-exist aboard ships of the MSC, which operates more than 100 non-combatant ships crewed by civilians that replenish Navy ships and deliver combat cargo around the world.

MSC ships headed to Mideast waters pick up EST teams, usually 12-man teams based at Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain, in the Mediterranean. The EST teams stay with the MSC ships through their deliveries in the Mideast and then disembark back in the Med. The EST teams are trained at the Navy’s Expeditional Combat Command in Little Creek, Va.

The white skiff that was fired upon was powered by three outboards and allegedly ignored repeated warnings to come within 150 yards of the 677-foot Rappahannock at an estimated speed of 20–25 knots.

But one of the wounded Indian fishermen insisted that his boat was trying to avoid the U.S. ship and that the Rappahannock issued no warnings to stay away before firing.
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brihard

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There ought to be logs that will record course changes, warning/evasive action if taken, etc. As the responsibility does not pass to the EST until a threat becomes quite apparent, it would seem to me that even if the ship had failed to issue warnings, the EST could still in good faith act unilaterally to take force protection measures, and liability would rest with the civilian master for not exercising the lesser ROE options sooner.
 
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