USS Fitzgerald: Sailors killed in collision off Japan’s coast named

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  • As US coalition downs Syrian army plane in Raqqa

The US Navy has identified seven sailors who were killed when their destroyer collided with a container ship in Japanese waters on Saturday.

The sailors were found in flooded berths onboard the USS Fitzgerald, said a statement by the US Navy.

At least three others were injured in the collision which took place near the port city of Yokosuka.

Many of the Fitzgerald’s crew were asleep when the incident happened. The US Navy said it was investigating.

The warship has since been towed to the US naval base in Yokosuka.

The seven sailors were reported missing after the incident which took place at about 02:30 local time on Saturday (17:30 GMT Friday).

The Navy has now said that divers gained access to the damaged areas and found their remains.

The commander of the 7th Fleet, Joseph P Aucoin, told reporters that the collision caused a “big gash” under the warship’s waterline.

He said the vessel could have sunk were it not for “heroic efforts” by crew members, which prevented the flooding from “catastrophically spreading” to other parts of the warship.

Marine traffic records suggest that the container ship, the Filipino-flagged ACX Crystal, made a sudden U-turn roughly 25 minutes before the crash. It is not known why it changed course.

Similar records for the USS Fitzgerald are not publicly available.

In the meantime, the US-led coalition in Syria has shot down a Syrian military jet in Raqqa province.

The Syrian army said its warplane was on a mission against the Islamic State (IS) group when it came under fire on Sunday, according to state television.

It said the incident would have “dangerous repercussions” on efforts to fight terrorism.

The US said it acted in self-defence after the Syrian regime dropped bombs near US-backed fighters.

“In accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defence of Coalition-partnered forces [the plane] was immediately shot down,” said the US military in a statement.

The incident took place in the town of Ja’Din, which is held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and lies on the outskirts of Raqqa.

The SDF rebel fighters, supported by US-led coalition air strikes, are encircling the IS stronghold of Raqqa.

Two hours before the plane was shot down, the US said forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attacked SDF fighters, “wounding a number” of them and driving them from Ja’Din.

The US said it responded without hesitation, but emphasised that it did not seek to fight to the Syrian regime.

“The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward Coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-Isis operations will not be tolerated,” it added.

Syrian pro-government forces are not fighting the battle for Raqqa, but they are making ground against IS in the surrounding area, south-west of the city.

Earlier this month, the US shot down a pro-Syrian government armed droneafter it fired at coalition forces near the al-Tanf border crossing, between Syria and Iraq.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards announced on Sunday that it has launched several missiles into eastern Syria, targeting IS fighters.

IS claimed responsibility for an attack on Iranian parliament earlier in June, which killed more than a dozen people.

BBC

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