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US vessel fires on boat in Gulf, killing one and injuring three

Jacob D. Moore / Navy Visual News Service via EPA

The USNS Rappahannock opened fire on a small boat, possibly a pleasure craft, about 10 miles offshore from Dubai in the Persian Gulf, U.S. officials told NBC News.

WASHINGTON – U.S. officials tell NBC News that at least one person was killed and three others injured when a U.S. Navy ship, the USNS Rappahannock, opened fire on a small boat about 10 miles offshore from Dubai in the Persian Gulf on Monday.

The U.S. officials say the boat, possibly a pleasure craft, ignored warnings and was closing in on the U.S. Navy supply ship in an "aggressive and threatening manner."

The crew aboard the Navy ship sent out repeated warnings, including radio calls, flashing lights, lasers and ultimately warning shots from a 50-caliber machine gun.  When the boat failed to heed the warnings, the crew was ordered to open fire with the 50-caliber gun.

The small vessel disregarded warnings as it approached the U.S. ship near Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

According to a press release from the Navy, “in accordance with Navy force protection procedures, the sailors on the USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) used a series of non-lethal, preplanned responses to warn the vessel before resorting to lethal force.”

U.S. officials say as of now it's unclear whether the dead and injured are from the United Arab Emirates or India, but they stress there is no indication that Iran or Iranians were in anyway involved in Monday's incident.

A U.S. Navy investigation is under way.

Iran: We can destroy US bases 'minutes after attack' 

Rising tensions
The Pentagon also announced Monday that it is sending the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis to the Persian Gulf region – four months earlier than previously scheduled. The Stennis strike group, which also includes the Aegis guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay and some 5,500 sailors, will also be on an eight month deployment – twice as long as the group was originally scheduled to be deployed. 

This major shift in the Stennis deployment is a response to the steadily rising tensions over Iran's nuclear program, Iran's threat to shut down the Strait of Hormuz over tighter international sanctions, and the possibility that Israel may launch preemptive airstrikes against Iran's nuclear facility.

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A potential showdown is looming over Iran's nuclear program after word that Tehran's new bargaining position could split Israel and the United States. The Washington Post's David Ignatius reports.

The shift and extension of the Stennis deployment will allow CENTCOM to keep two aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf region, Gulf of Oman and North Arabian Sea, not only as a hedge against Iran, but to support combat air operations over Afghanistan.

The aircraft Carrier USS Lincoln left the Persian Gulf area Monday.

Aircraft carrier USS Stennis going to Persian Gulf early, staying longer

The carriers Enterprise and Eisenhower will remain in the region until the Stennis relieves the Enterprise about five months from now.   

 Please check back in on this developing story. 

 NBC News' Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube at the Pentagon, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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