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Iranian attempt to seize US marine drone stopped by US Navy in the Persian Gulf

In what a top U.S. commander called a “flagrant” and “unwarranted” incident, the U.S. Navy blocked an Iranian ship from capturing an American marine drone in the Persian Gulf overnight Monday into Tuesday local time.

A US-operated maritime drone, also known as a Saildrone Explorer uncrewed surface vessel, was being towed by an Iranian ship, the Shahid Baziar, while U.S. forces in the area were transiting international waters around 11 p.m. on Monday, according to a news release from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.

The USS Thunderbolt, a U.S. Navy coastal patrol ship, was “operating nearby and swiftly responded,” the Navy stated. U.S. soldiers in the vicinity directly engaged with the Iranians to request the return of the maritime drone after the Iranians hooked a line to it, according to a U.S. defence official.

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According to the announcement and a U.S. defence official, the U.S. 5th Fleet launched an MH-60S Sea Hawk Helicopter from Bahrain and manoeuvred it above the maritime drone as the U.S. Navy patrol boat got closer.

Screenshot of a video taken on August 30 showing the U.S. Navy patrol coastal ship USS Thunderbolt approaching in response to the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy support ship Shahid Baziar, left, illegally towing a Saildrone Explorer uncrewed surface vessel in international waters of the Persian Gulf.

The Iranian ship cut the towing line from the U.S. drone when the U.S. replied with both the coastal ship and Sea Hawk helicopter, leaving the region four hours later, according to the release.

The report said that the U.S. Navy, after that, continued operations “without incident.”

The incident occurs at a pivotal juncture in US-Iran relations. The talks to resurrect the Iran nuclear agreement are delicate, but U.S. officials have expressed some confidence about the most recent initiatives. They have emphasised that there are still gaps between the two sides.

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In a statement on the event, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet, US Naval Forces Central Command, and Combined Maritime Forces, referred to the IRGCN’s actions as “flagrant, inappropriate, and inconsistent with the behavior of a competent maritime force.”

Cooper stated that “U.S. Navy forces remain alert and will continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere that international law permits while advancing rules-based international order throughout the region.

Iran’s activities were sharply condemned as being illegal by Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, Commander of U.S. Central Command, managing the U.S. military presence in the Middle East.

In a statement, Kurilla said that “the professionalism and expertise of the USS Thunderbolt crew prevented Iran from this illegal conduct.” This incident further supports Iran’s imprudent, unlawful, and disruptive behaviour in the Middle East.

According to the announcement, the maritime drone the IRGCN tried to steal is “U.S. government property and equipped with sensors, radars, and cameras for navigation and data collecting.” The press announced that the drone “does not store critical or confidential information.”

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