In the last week or so the Iranian navy has repeatedly been boasting of its capabilities and threatening to attack the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis if it attempts to pass through the Strait of Hormuz again. They've threatened to shut down all traffic of crude oil through the Strait, and Iran's parliament is debating a measure that would require the US Navy to get permission before passing through the international waterway.
Cue today's story
The U.S. Navy rescued more than a dozen Iranian sailors who had been held at sea by a band of pirates for weeks, the Pentagon announced today.
According to the military's account, an American helicopter from the destroyer USS Kidd "detected a suspected pirate skiff alongside" an Iranian-flagged fishing ship in the Arabian Sea Thursday. At the same time, the Iranian ship was able to send a distress call, claiming the ship was held by pirates.
American Navy sailors with a "visit, board, search and seizure team" then boarded the Iranian ship and were able to detain 15 suspected pirates and free the 13-member Iranian crew, the Pentagon said. A Navy Criminal Investigative Service agent on the scene, Josh Schminky, said the Iranian crew had been forced to help the pirates carry out operations and pirates had apparently been using the Iranian ship as a "mothership".
"When we boarded, we gave [the Iranians] food, water, and medical care," Schminky said in a Pentagon report. "They had been through a lot. We went out of our way to treat the fishing crew with kindness and respect."
Rear Admiral Craig Faller, commander of the nearby USS John C. Stennis, told ABC News the Iranians knew their rescuers were Americans and were "ecstatic" and "overjoyed" to be freed.
Whats more, the USS Kidd is part of the USS John C. Stennis task force, and its onboard the Stennis where the captured pirates are currently being held.
Long story short...After weeks of Iran rattling its saber, threatening war on the high seas over freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, and proclaiming the US Navy does nothing but "cause mayhem", the very same Navy ships they were threatening went out of their way and took personal risk to rescue a crew of Iranian hostages from dangerous pirates...and then saw the Iranian citizens safely home.
There was no question on the part of our Navy whether to intervene. They responded to a distress call and did their duty...they'd have done the same if the fishermen had been Saudis, or Kenyans, or Koreans.
And the Iranian navy, for all its boasting, apparently couldn't find and rescue their own citizens.
Well done USS Kidd, and best of luck to the freed hostages who were just trying to make a living for themselves.
12:45 PM PT: REC LIST! Thanks folks. Always awesome when America gets to kick some pirate ass and 'face' the Ayatollah in one stroke.
UPDATE 9:09 PM - More from the New York Times...namely that a second vessel, a cargo ship, was also rescued from the pirates in the same incident.
Mahmed Younes, 28, the fishing vessel’s captain, said he and his crew had been captured roughly 45 days ago by pirates in a skiff, who boarded their 82-foot dhow and forced it to an anchorage in the northern Somali port of Xaafuun. There, the pirates took on provisions and more gunmen.
In late December the pirates, using their hostages to run the dhow, set back out to sea, hunting for a tanker or large cargo ship to capture and hold for ransom.
For several days, Al Mulahi roamed the Gulf of Oman, unmolested under its Iranian flag, the pirates and former hostages said. They saw several ships. But the pirates’ leader, Bashir Bhotan, 32, did not think any of them would command a high ransom. They let them pass.
“The pirates told us, ‘If you get us a good ship, we will let you go free,’ ” Captain Younes said. “We told them, ‘How can we get you a ship? We are fishermen, not hunters.’ ”
On Thursday morning, six of the pirates set out in a fiberglass skiff and found their quarry — the Sunshine, 100 miles from the shore of Oman. One of the pirates, Mohammed Mahmoud, 33, later said this was the type of vessel they would hope might fetch a ransom of several million dollars.
Brandishing a rocket-propelled grenade and several Kalashnikov rifles, they rushed alongside, threw a grappling hook and tried to lash a ladder to the Sunshine’s side. They hoped to scale the gunwales and seize the bridge.
Their plans unraveled immediately. As the Sunshine radioed for help, and tried to deter the boarding by spraying the pirates with fire hoses, the pirates were unable to board.
“Our ladder broke,” Mr. Mahmoud said.
Then an American helicopter appeared.
Neither the pirates nor the crew of the Sunshine had known it, but three Navy ships — the Stennis; the U.S.N.S. Rainier, a supply ship; and the U.S.S. Mobile Bay, a guided-missile cruiser — were steaming in formation a few miles away. The carrier was taking on provisions from the Rainier and had several helicopters in the air when the Sunshine radioed its distress call.
Aboard the carrier, Rear Adm. Craig S. Faller, who commands the carrier strike group, looked at the chart and radar images of the Sunshine’s location with something like disbelief. The Sunshine and the Stennis were only a few miles apart. “These might be the dumbest pirates ever,” he said.
The crew of the USS Kidd set up a 'catch & release' ruse. They took the pirates captured from the attack on the cargo vessel, gave them oranges and provisions, and "let them go"...and, dumb pirates they were, lead them right back to the hijacked Iranian dhow-turned-pirate ship. The pirates tried to hide 'Han Solo' style in the cargo bay of the dhow, but the Navy boarding party quickly found and arrested them.