Saturday, August 20, 2005

Militants Claim Credit For Rocket Attack On USS Kearsarge & USS Ashland

Islamic radical militants claim to have fired a rocket in Jordan Friday morning that flew over the bow of a Norfolk-based ship docked in the Red Sea port of Aqaba, puncturing a warehouse on a nearby pier, officials said. It was the most serious attack on a U.S. Navy ship since the October 2000 small-boat attack on the destroyer Cole in Yemen. The rocket, one of at least three fired from what Jordanian and Israeli officials now say was another warehouse at the port, missed the dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48),
USS Ashland (LSD 48)
As well as the nearby amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3),
USS Kearsarge (LHD 3)
Said Lt. Cmdr. Charles Brown, a spokesman for the U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain. No sailors or Marines were injured and neither ship sustained any damage, but a Jordanian soldier was killed and another severely wounded when the rocket struck, the Associated Press reported. The rocket, which flew past Ashland at about 8:44 a.m. local time, blew an 8-foot hole in the roof of the warehouse, which was near both ships, Brown said. Both ships are now at sea. A group linked to al-Qaida claimed responsibility in an Internet statement which could not be independently verified. “A group of our holy warriors ... targeted a gathering of American military ships docking in Aqaba port and also in Eilat port with three Katyusha rockets and the warriors returned safe to their headquarters,” said the statement by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades.
The warehouse said to be the launch site was rented this week by four people holding Egyptian and Iraqi nationalities, Jordan’s state-run Petra news agency reported, citing preliminary investigations. One of the three rockets landed close to a nearby airport in neighboring Israel and the other hit near a Jordanian hospital, according to Israeli and Jordanian officials, AP reported. The officials said they were Katyusha rockets, a largely inaccurate unguided weapon used by Palestinian militias in attacks on Israel during the 1975-90 Lebanese civil war by most parties to that conflict. It has a range of up to 17 miles. The two ships, which were in port supporting the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit during a joint training exercise with Jordanian forces, started making preparations to get underway “immediately afterward,” Brown said. Brown wouldn’t comment on the status of the Marines who’d been training in Jordan. “We don’t discuss the specific location of forces,” Brown said. The Marine Corps news desk at the Pentagon deferred questions to a Marine spokesman aboard the Kearsarge, command ship for the expeditionary strike group. The Marine spokesman said 5th Fleet would be handling all queries. The Ashland is based at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base, the Kearsarge at Norfolk Naval Station. The ESG also includes the cruiser Normandy, the destroyer Gonzalez, the frigate Kauffman, the amphibious transport ship Ponce and the attack submarine Scranton. The ESG got underway March 25; the other ships are operating elsewhere in the region. The Jordanians are performing the investigation into the rocket attacks, Brown said.

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