Top US naval commander in the Middle East found dead

Washington: A top admiral overseeing US Naval forces in the Middle East was found dead in his residence in Bahrain, the Navy said in a statement here.

Vice Adm. Scott Stearney was found dead on Saturday, but officials have said that there was no evidence of foul play at this time.

“This is devastating news for the Stearney family, for the team at Fifth Fleet, and for the entire Navy,” Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, told CNN.

“Adm. Stearney was a decorated professional and a devoted father, a devoted husband and a good friend.”

Richardson said the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Bahraini Ministry of Interior were cooperating in the investigation.

The US Navy’s Bahrain-based Naval Forces Central Command, which the Fifth Fleet is part of, oversees operations in areas like the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.

The command is seen as critical to US security interests given the challenges of Iran and Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, both of which Washington sees as potential threats to shipping in the region.

A tremendous amount of commercial shipping, including large amounts of oil and gas, travels through the waters overseen by Fifth Fleet.

The deputy commander of the Fifth Fleet, Rear Adm. Paul Schlise, has assumed acting command, Richardson said, adding that the Navy’s “operations and responsibilities” in the region will continue uninterrupted.

Stearney, a native of Chicago, held several senior posts, including commanding a carrier strike group and serving as director of operations for US Central Command.