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'Monkey' Blamed in U.S./Iran Boat Conflict

On Jan. 6, five small Iranian boats approached two U.S. Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Iran. At the same time, the U.S. ships received a threat over the radio: "I am coming to you." After 20 seconds, the voice continued: "You will explode in a few minutes."

The threat came over Channel 16, the universal radio channel for seafaring ships, and a transmission on Channel 16 could have come from anywhere in the region. The U.S. Navy has not officially attributed the radio threat to the Iranian boats. But a video of the incident released by the Pentagon includes audio of the radio threat mixed in, suggesting, to some, that the Iranian boats were the source.

A report in the Navy Times now raises another possibility. The threat could be the work of the "Filipino Monkey," the racially derogatory handle given to any number of pranksters voicing profane comments or threats over Channel 16. Mariners remember hearing insults and other inappropriate chatter from various radio operators who got dubbed "Filipino Monkey" as far back as the early 1980s.

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You can find Pentagon and Iran state-run TV video of the Hormuz incident, and more about the phenomenon of the "Filipino Monkey" on our blog.

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