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Trump orders Navy to 'destroy' any Iranian gunboats that approach US ships

US president's warning comes hours after Iran said it had launched its first military satellite into orbit
Photo released by US Navy reportedly shows IRGCN vessels conducting 'unsafe and unprofessional' actions against US military ships on 15 April (AFP/US Navy/Handout)

US President Donald Trump has instructed American naval forces to fire on any Iranian ships that "harass" its vessels at sea. 

Trump announced the order on Twitter, just hours after Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said it had launched the country’s first military satellite into orbit. 

"I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea," Trump wrote. 

Last week, the US military said that 11 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) speedboats had come "dangerously" close to US ships, including the guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton, in the Gulf. 

According to a statement released by the American military, the Iranian vessels approached six US military ships while they were conducting integration operations with army helicopters in international waters.

At one point, the Iranian vessels came within nine metres of a US Coast Guard cutter, the statement said.

The US ships issued several warnings through bridge-to-bridge radio, blasts from the ships' horns and long-range acoustic noise maker devices.

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The Iranian ships left after about an hour, the statement added, calling the move "dangerous and provocative".

On Sunday, Iran's navy acknowledged the incident, saying that the US sparked the tense encounter, without providing additional details.

According to the IRGCN, its forces were conducting a drill when they were met by "provocative actions of the United States and their indifference to warnings".

In its statement, the IRGCN urged American forces to follow "international regulations and maritime protocols" and to "refrain from any adventurism and false and fake stories". 

"They should be assured that the Revolutionary Guard navy and the powerful armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran see the dangerous actions of foreigners in the region as a threat to national security and its red line, and any error in calculation on their part will receive a decisive response," the IRGCN said in its own warning.

Contrary to the US military report, the Iranian statement said that the Americans were the ones to withdraw from the confrontation. 

Iran's military satellite 

Earlier on Wednesday, Iran said that it had put a military satellite into orbit for the first time, a surprise move that comes amid ongoing tensions with the United States.

The launch of the satellite, named "Noor," or light, has not been independently confirmed, the New York Times reported. 

The State Department and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to Middle East Eye's requests for comment.