America’s military has released a video claiming to show Iran removing a mine from one of the oil tankers hit by an explosion in the Gulf of Yemen yesterday.
Washington last night accused Iran of causing the two blasts, which left one of the vessels burning in a fireball and sparked a fresh exchange of angry rhetoric in an already tense Middle East standoff.
The U.S. military says it saw Iranian vessels returning to the stricken Japanese-owned tanker Kokuta Courageous and removing an unexploded limpet mine – accusing Iran of trying to hide its involvement in the blasts.
Tehran has dismissed the U.S. claims, calling them ‘baseless’ and accusing America of ‘sabotage diplomacy’ and ‘Iranophobia’.
The shipping firms affected are continuing their investigations today, amid claims that one of the crews saw a ‘flying object’ before an explosion on board.
The explosions, which forced 44 sailors on the Kokuta and the Norwegian-owned MT Front Altair to abandon ship, have also sparked fears over the world oil supply after four tankers were targeted in similar blasts last month.
The U.S. military on Friday released a video it said showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the oil tankers targeted near the Strait of Hormuz
Captain Bill Urban, spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, issued a timeline that suggested the military witnessed Iranian vessels returning to the Japanese vessel
‘At 4:10 p.m. local time an IRGC Gashti Class patrol boat approached the M/T Kokuka Courageous and was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine’ from the Courageous, Urban said
Laying out the U.S. claims against Iran last night, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said ‘it is the assessment of the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman.’
‘This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to executive the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication,’ he said.
The U.S. Central Command also released the grainy black-and-white video which it said showed an Iranian patrol boat removing the unexploded limpet mine from the Japanese ship.
‘At 4.10 p.m. local time an IRGC Gashti Class patrol boat approached the M/T Kokuka Courageous and was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine’ from the Courageous, said Captain Bill Urban said.
The U.S. has also dispatched its destroyer USS Mason to the scene to ‘provide assistance’ after the Navy received distress calls from the two tankers yesterday.
‘It is the assessment of the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today,’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters at the State Department
Iran has denied being involved in the attack, calling it an ‘unfounded claim’ in the U.S.’ ‘Iranophobic campaign’
Renewing Washington’s threat of military action, Captain Urban said: ‘The U.S. and the international community stand ready to defend our interests, including the freedom of navigation.
‘The United States has no interest in engaging in a new conflict in the Middle East. However, we will defend our interests.’
Iran has denied being involved in the attack, calling it an ‘unfounded claim’ in the U.S.’ ‘Iranophobic campaign.’
‘The U.S. economic war and terrorism against the Iranian people as well as its massive military presence in the region have been and continue to be the main sources of insecurity and instability in the wider Persian Gulf region and the most significant threat to its peace and security,’ a statement at the United Nations said.
It accused America of trying to ‘sabotage’ its talks with Japanese leader Shinzo Abe, who was visiting Tehran in an effort to cool tensions.
The Islamic Republic said yesterday it was ‘suspicious’ about the timing of the blasts during Mr Abe’s visit.
The U.S. Navy rushed to assist the stricken vessels in the Gulf of Oman off the coast of Iran, including one that was set ablaze Thursday by an explosion
His talks with Iran’s supreme leader appeared to take a wrong turn today as the Ayatollah said Tehran would ‘never repeat’ negotiations with the U.S.
However, Mr Abe said Khamenei assured him that Iran has no intention to produce, possess or use nuclear arms.
Last night President Trump tweeted in response to the Japanese PM’s visit that the U.S. was not ‘ready’ to make a deal with Iran.
He wrote: ‘While I very much appreciate P.M. Abe going to Iran to meet with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, I personally feel that it is too soon to even think about making a deal. They are not ready, and neither are we!’
Meanwhile Russia said it was too early to say who was behind the explosions.
The black-and-white footage, as well as still photographs released by the U.S. military’s Central Command, appeared to show the limpet mine on the Kokuka Courageous
The suspected attacks occurred at dawn Thursday about 40 kilometers (25 miles) off the southern coast of Iran
Iran previously used mines against oil tankers in 1987 and 1988 in the ‘Tanker War,’ when the U.S. Navy escorted ships through the region.
The suspected attacks occurred at dawn Thursday around 25 miles off the southern coast of Iran.
The Front Altair, loaded with the flammable hydrocarbon mixture naphtha from the United Arab Emirates, radioed for help as it caught fire. A short time later, the Kokuka Courageous, loaded with methanol from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, also called for help.
The U.S. Navy sent a destroyer, the USS Bainbridge, to assist, said Cmdr. Joshua Frey, a 5th Fleet spokesman. He described the ships as being hit in a ‘reported attack,’ without elaborating.
Thursday’s attack resembled that of an attack in May targeting four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah. U.S. officials similarly accused Iran of targeting the ships with limpet mines, which are magnetic and attach to the hulls of a ship. The mines disable, but don’t sink, a vessel.
The U.S. Navy sent a destroyer, the USS Bainbridge (pictured), to assist, said Cmdr. Joshua Frey, a 5th Fleet spokesman. He described the ships as being hit in a ‘reported attack,’ without elaborating
Thursday’s attack resembled that of an attack in May targeting four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah