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U.S.-Iran naval confrontation in Gulf raises tensions

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Three US Navy ships – the cruiser USS Port Royal, the destroyer USS Hopper, and the frigate USS Ingraham – were on patrol about 12 miles from Iranian territory in the Strait of Hormuz early Sunday when five small boats associated with Iran's Revolutionary Guards approached them, Pentagon officials said. The fast boats, highly maneuverable patrol craft, were "visibly armed," a Pentagon spokesman said, and began aggressive maneuvers against the three American ships, steaming in formation into the Persian Gulf.

The boats got within 200 to 500 yards of the American ships before splitting into two groups. At least one of the fast boats then dropped several white boxes in the water in the pathway of the Ingraham, which successfully dodged them, considering them potential floating mines. Commanders of the US ships also received radio communications thought to be from one of the Iranian boats in which they heard an individual say in English, "I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes."

A Navy official said it was impossible to determine if the radio transmission actually came from one of the five boats.

Taken together, however, the American ships began to employ other evasive maneuvers and were prepared to "take appropriate action" before the five boats turned away, officials said.

One of the US ships was reported to be on the verge of shooting at one of the Iranian boats but apparently the boats turned away before the commanding officer gave that command, officials said.

Navy officials would not be specific about the kinds of precautions the US ships took, citing the classified nature of the rules of engagement during such incidents.

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