US Navy says mine fragments, magnet point to Iran in Gulf tanker attack

Iran dismisses allegations
US Navy patrol boats carrying journalists to see damaged oil tankers leaves a U.S. Navy 5th Fleet base near Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, Wednesday, June 19, 2019. The limpet mines used to attack a Japanese-owned oil tanker near the Strait of Hormuz bore "a striking resemblance" to similar mines displayed by Iran, a U.S. Navy explosives expert said Wednesday. Iran has denied being involved. Ap

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SULAIMANI — The United States Navy on Wednesday (June 19) displayed limpet mine fragments and a magnet it said it had removed from one of two oil tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman last week, saying the mines bore a striking resemblance to Iranian ones.

The United States, waging a “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign against Iran to curb its nuclear and regional activities, has been trying to build an international consensus that Iran was behind last week’s blasts, as well as a May 12 strike on four oil tankers off the United Arab Emirates, Reuters reported.

Tehran has denied any involvement in both attacks near the Strait of Hormuz, a major transit route for global oil supplies, but the incidents have raised fears of broader confrontation in the Gulf region.

The US military previously released images it said showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) removing an unexploded limpet mine from the Japanese-owned tanker Kokuka Courageous, which was hit by explosions along with the Norwegian-owned Front Altair ship on June 13.

“The limpet mine that was used in the attack is distinguishable and also strikingly bearing a resemblance to Iranian mines that have already been publicly displayed in Iranian military parades,” said Commander Sean Kido, commanding officer of an explosive ordinance dive and salvage task group in the Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT).

He was speaking to reporters at a NAVCENT facility near the UAE port of Fujairah. Small fragments said to have been removed from the Kokuka Courageous were on display alongside a magnet purportedly left by the IRCG team allegedly captured on video.

The Japanese company that owns the Kokuka Courageous had said that its ship was damaged by two “flying objects”, but NAVCENT dismissed this.

“The damage at the blast hole is consistent with a limpet mine attack, it is not consistent with an external flying object striking the ship,” Kido said, adding that nail holes visible in the hull indicated how the mine was attached to the ship.

Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Amir Hatami dismissed allegations about his country’s involvement in last week’s attack on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, describing them as an unfair accusation meant to tarnish Iran’s image, according to AP.

The semi-official Fars news agency on Wednesday quoted the minister as saying that “the accusation against Iran is totally a lie and I dismiss it firmly.”

Hatami extolled Iranian military, saying it has “played a significant role in the establishment of security in the region and in international waterways.”

He responded to questions about footage released by the US purporting to show Iranian forces removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the stricken tankers, saying “the date and the location shown in the footage have not been authenticated.”

The minister also added that Iranian vessels carried out a rescue operation when they arrived at the location of the tankers. He says the Americans “can show any footage ... but it cannot be used as evidence.”

(NRT Digital Media/Agencies)

Photos/AP news agency