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ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy is searching a 360-square-mile area for a sailor who has been missing from the USS Princeton since Tuesday, said a spokesman for 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain.

Navy aircraft and ships are looking for the sailor in the central Persian Gulf, which runs from Kuwait to Qatar, said Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Brown.

The Navy said Wednesday that it would not release any information about the sailor’s identity, including the sailor’s name, rank and job aboard the Princeton, while the search is ongoing, Brown said.

Brown said the sailor was reported missing Tuesday morning. After Navy personnel failed to find the sailor aboard the ship, search-and-rescue efforts began from the Princeton’s position when the sailor was last seen on Monday night, he said.

Brown said he did not know how many ships and planes were involved in search efforts, and he would not say how long the search might continue.

Asked if the sailor is presumed dead, Brown replied: “Absolutely not. We are still conducting search and rescue.”

He also declined to comment when asked if it was possible that the sailor jumped ship.

The Princeton deployed in May to the Persian Gulf with the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, Brown said. The strike group is providing maritime security and air support for Operation Iraqi Freedom, he said.

Brown said incidents of missing sailors are infrequent. “It’s certainly not something that happens monthly,” he said.

But in 2002, the Navy conducted 46 man-overboard search-and- rescue operations.

The Navy constantly trains to rescue sailors who fall overboard. Within 12 hours of setting sail, ships must hold a man-overboard drill and repeat it regularly.

Within minutes, a rescue boat is supposed to be in the water and the entire ship’s crew assembles for a head count.

Most rescues are successful, but some end without resolution. In 2003, a sailor playing football on the USS Nassau fell overboard near Bermuda and was never seen again, CNN reported.

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