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U.S. ship fires warning shots at boat in Suez Canal

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The United States is working with the Egyptian government to figure out the details of a shooting incident in the Suez Canal involving a cargo vessel contracted by the U.S. military.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Wednesday acknowledged that an Egyptian man was killed by one of what the U.S. military team aboard the cargo ship intended to be warning shots.

Egypt’s state-run news agency and other media reports said Tuesday one person was killed and at least two others wounded on Monday when the U.S. security team aboard the vessel fired on a small boat that approached it.

An embassy statement said the incident is being investigated by the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet Command and Egyptian authorities, including the Suez Canal Authority and other local officials.

According to the embassy statement and a senior U.S. military official, several small boats approached the Global Patriot, a cargo vessel contracted by the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command.

The incident happened as the ship prepared to cross the Suez Canal, a 100-mile long waterway that crosses through Egypt and connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea.

The boats were hailed and warned by a native Arabic speaker using a bullhorn to warn them to turn away, the embassy statement said.

After a warning flare was fired, one of the small boats continued to approach the ship, prompting the U.S. forces on board to fire two sets of warning shots which landed in the water, about 20 yards to 30 yards in front of the boat.

The senior U.S. military official said an armed military security team was on board for the canal transit, but it was not clear if the team was made up of U.S. Marines or sailors.

The military official said the security team fired six warning shots with small caliber weapons. The shots hit the water, prompting the boat to veer off, he said.

Cmdr. Lydia Robertson stressed that U.S. troops are trained to fire warning shots if ships get too close, but they use the minimum amount of fire possible.

It’s worth emphasizing that we have our teams well-trained to exercise disciplined restraint to minimize impact, to take graduated steps to keep any incidents from happening, Robertson told CNN.

But an Egyptian security official told The Associated Press that after the warning shots, further gunfire killed one man in the small boat and wounded three others.

Abbas al-Amrikani, the head of the Suez seaman’s union, told AP the dead man was Mohammed Fouad, a 27-year-old father of three.

We are praying over his the body right now, al-Amrikani told the AP by telephone. Prayers could be heard in the background as he spoke, AP reported.

The bullet entered his heart and went out the other side, AP quoted al-Amrikani as saying.

The Egyptian security official, speaking to AP on condition of anonymity, said merchants often use small boats to try to sell cigarettes and other items to ships transiting the Suez Canal.

The merchants know not to approach military vessels, he told AP, but the fact that the Global Patriot was a civilian vessel may have led to confusion.
U.S. ship fires warning shots at boat in Suez Canal – found here.

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March 26, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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