Shooting linked to ship’s early arrival to canal
August 30, 2008
An investigation into the March shooting death of an Egyptian man by sailors aboard a U.S. Navy-contracted ship in the Suez Canal found that the ship’s early arrival was a "very influential factor" in the incident, a Navy official said.
The Military Sealift Command-chartered ship Global Patriot arrived earlier than scheduled, and because of its ill timing, the ship had to anchor to wait its turn to transit the canal.
That waiting made it susceptible to small boats that approach ships trying to peddle their wares, said Lt. Nathan Christensen, a spokesman with the Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet.
A Navy security team on the civilian cargo ship fired a series of warning shots after using other warning systems, such as loudspeaker and flares, he said.
Two other boats that approached backed off, but a third, the one carrying Mohammed Affifi, failed to back off when ordered, he said.
"The early arrival was a significant causal factor which led to the unfortunate death of Mr. Affifi," Christensen said.
Without getting into specifics, Christensen said the ship "arrived hours early to the Suez Canal."
The ship began to transit the Suez at approximately 8 p.m. March 24, he said.
The Global Patriot sailed through the Suez Canal the following day to the Mediterranean Sea en route to the United States, he said.
It was chartered in February to carry mine-resistant vehicles from South Africa to Ash Shuabah, Kuwait, where it then loaded military equipment from Kuwait to carry back to the U.S.
Navy officials completed their probe into the shooting in May, but its findings were not made public until Thursday, after the U.S. Embassy in Cairo paid Affifi’s family an undisclosed amount of money.
"On behalf of the U.S. government, we would like to express our sincere apology and profound sorrow for this tragic accident, and extend our deepest sympathy to the family of Mr. Mohamed Fouad Affifi, who died as a result," reads an embassy statement. "We have offered financial assistance to the family of Mr. Fouad Affifi, realizing of course, that no amount of money could ever compensate his family for the loss of his life.
"In over one hundred years of maritime traffic in the Suez Canal, this was the first fatal incident involving a U.S. ship," the statement continues.