By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The United States has announced its second naval operation in less than a week to rescue Iranian sailors from a distressed vessel in international waters.
The Pentagon said a U.S. Coast Guard cutter picked up the six Iranian mariners after their cargo ship, the “Ya Hussayn,” broke down in the northern Persian Gulf.
“This is consistent with meeting our obligations to rescue vessels in distress,” Pentagon spokesman George Little was quoted as saying.
Last week, a U.S. Navy ship rescued 13 Iranian fishermen in the northern Arabian Sea who had been held captive aboard their ship by Somali pirates. In that incident, U.S. officials said the U.S. Navy provided fuel and food for the Iranians to return home.
In the January 10 incident, U.S. forces said they responded after being “hailed by flares and flashlights,” and plucked two people from the “Ya Hussayn” and “four more from a life raft tied off the dhow’s stern.” The captain reportedly said the “Ya Hussayn’s” engine room was flooding and the ship was not seaworthy.
One of the Iranian sailors reportedly suffered burn injuries and received treatment.
All six men were later handed over to an Iranian coast-guard vessel, a U.S. Defense Department report said.
Iranian authorities eventually expressed gratitude for the U.S. Navy’s “humanitarian” operation to free the 13 seamen aboard the “Al Molai.”
The rescues come amid hightened tension between Iran and the United States over Tehran’s nuclear program, including a warning from an Iranian commander that a U.S. carrier fleet should stay out of the region and threats from officials in Tehran that they might try to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil-transit route.