Tuesday, March 25, 2008

US Ship Shoots At Small Boat In Suez Canal

By Cernig

The US Fifth Fleet is co-operating in the Egyptian investigation of an incident in the Suez canal after dark on Monday. The Egyptian authorities say that one man was killed by fire from the US-flagged Global Patriot, under contract to the US military, but the American embassy in Cairo says that "Initial reports from the “Global Patriot” indicate that no casualties were sustained on either vessel." The embassy's website describes the encounter:
The “Global Patriot,” a ship on short term charter to the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command, fired warning shots at a small boat approaching the ship as it was preparing to transit the Suez Canal Monday evening. Initial reports from the “Global Patriot” indicate that no casualties were sustained on either vessel.

The “Global Patriot” was approached by several boats while preparing to transit the Suez Canal. 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. One small boat continued to approach the ship and received two sets of warning shots 20-30 yards in front of the bow. All shots were accounted for as they entered the water.

The incident is under investigation. The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet Command is cooperating fully with Egyptian authorities, including the Suez Canal Authority and other local authorities, as well as the national authorities through the US Embassy in Cairo.
But the BBC reports:
Egyptian officials and witnesses say a man aboard the boat, Mohammed Fouad, was killed as his boat approached the ship in order to offer goods for sale. Two other men were injured, they say.

This is also the version of events reported by the official Egyptian news agency, citing preliminary reports.

Egyptian sources say Fouad's body was taken to a hospital morgue and then a mosque to await burial on Tuesday.

"We are praying over his body right now," Abbas al-Amrikani, the head of the union of seamen in Suez, told AP news agency, over audible sounds of prayer.

"I saw the body. The bullet entered his heart and went out the other side."
There's certainly a difference in accounts there.

The roll-on-roll-off Global Patriot and its owners, Global Container Lines, have done several charters for the U.S. military and other U.S. governmental bodies, including USAID food relief and transporting a Patriot missile battery. This time, they were carrying US military equipment (i.e. vehicles, given the vessel type) back to the States for repair or disposal. As such, it seems likely to me they'd have some form of security on board rather than just relying on armed crewmen.

So here's the question not being asked - were the shooters crewmen, US military servicemen or security contractors? These early reports (denial even in the face of a body and eyewitness accounts) are reminiscent to me of Blackwater's infamous shoot-up in Baghdad which caused so much controversy and occasioned a US State Dept. attempt at a cover-up.

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