An American cargo ship under contract to the U.S. Navy opened fire on a small Egyptian boat while moving through the Suez Canal, the U.S. military said Tuesday in a statement. Egyptian authorities said at least one man was killed, but the U.S. said it had no reports of casualties.Remember to take initial reports cautiously and wait for a full investigation.
The Global Patriot, which was under short term charter to the navy's Military Sealift Command, entered the canal from the Red Sea at Suez after dark Monday when it was approached by several small boats, according to both U.S. and Egyptian officials.
Small boats selling cigarettes and other products often swarm the civilian ships moving through the canal. These waterborne merchants know not to approach military vessels but the "Global Patriot" looked like a civilian vessel, said the security official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.
"We are very conscious of being in heavily trafficked areas and we as professional mariners try to keep people from getting too close," Fifth Fleet spokeswoman Cmdr. Lydia Robertson told The Associated Press by phone from Bahrain. "Our team did take the appropriate steps to take those measured steps to warn the vessels that were getting too close."
Robertson, who noted that a Navy security team was on the vessel, said that the same rules of engagement applied for war ships as for those under contract.
Egyptian officials confirmed that the ship was now continuing its journey through the canal and expected to arrive at Port Said near the Mediterranean by nightfall.
The "Global Patriot" is registered to the New York-based Global Container Lines and, according to the company Web site, the vessel trades between the United States, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the East Africa.
The U.S. Navy is very careful about the activities of small boats near their war ships ever since the 2000 suicide attack by a motor boat on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen killed 17 sailors. A U.S. Navy security team was aboard the cargo ship.
"The boats were hailed and warned by a native Arabic speaker using a bullhorn to warn them to turn away. A warning flare was then fired," said a statement from the U.S. embassy in Cairo. "One small boat continued to approach the ship and received two sets of warning shots 20-30 yards in front of the bow."
The statement added that "All shots were accounted for as they entered the water." It also said that "initial reports indicate that no casualties were sustained on either vessel."
An Egyptian security official at the canal, however, said that after the warning shots, a man was shot dead in the small boat and that the three other men with him were wounded.
Global Container Lines website. Previous post on Embarked Security Teams.