U.S. Vessel Aids Iraqi Fishermen

From Associated Press

U.S. sailors responding to a radio distress call rescued eight Iraqi fishermen as their boat sank Thursday in the Persian Gulf, a Navy officer said.

The guided-missile frigate Gary responded to a mayday call from a boat the caller identified as the Captain Mohammed shortly before 6 p.m., Capt. Mike Mahon said. He said the fishermen did not need medical aid.

The 90-foot fishing boat was in international waters about 15 nautical miles from the Gary in the southern part of the Gulf when it issued a distress call saying it was taking on water.

"They were pretty desperate," Mahon told reporters on the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk.

The Gary sent a helicopter, which found the boat foundering in winds of 25 to 30 knots. But the helicopter couldn't initiate a rescue because of the boat's small size. When the Gary got close, it sent sailors to the stricken vessel in a small inflatable craft to evacuate the fishermen.

Mahon said the Iraqis were searched and taken aboard the Gary, where they would be held in isolation. The fishing boat's captain requested that he and his crew be returned to Iraq, Mahon said. That would probably involve sending the men home via a third country.

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