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US Military Releases Video of IRGC Removing Mine from Oil Tanker

US Military Releases Video of IRGC Removing Mine from Oil Tanker

Friday, 14 June, 2019 - 05:45
Still image taken from a US military handout video showing the IRGC removing an unexploded limpet mine from the side of the Kokuka Courageous Tanker, June 13, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
The US military released a video late on Thursday of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) removing an unexploded mine from the side of a Japanese-owned oil tanker that was attacked near the Strait of Hormuz, suggesting Tehran sought to remove evidence of its involvement from the scene.

The US 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.

The US military’s Central Command also released photographs showing the apparent mine, which attaches to the side of a ship magnetically, before it was removed later in the day.

Such imagery is often difficult to declassify and its release appeared to show US efforts to convince the international community of Iran’s culpability in Thursday’s attacks on the Kokuka Courageous and the Norwegian-owned Front Altair. Tehran has bluntly denied the allegation.

Both vessels suffered explosions, forcing crews to abandon ship and leave them adrift in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran.

Navy Captain Bill Urban, a Central Command spokesman, said the IRGC vessel was observed at 4:10 pm local time approaching the Japanese-owned tanker.

“(It) was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the Kokuka Courageous (video attached),” Urban said in a statement.

Central Command also offered a detailed chronology of events, starting with US Navy forces receiving distress calls from the Altair at 6:12 am and from the Kokuka Courageous at 7 am.

But much of the chronology centered on the movement of nearby Iranian ships, and what Central Command said was an Iranian order to take control of Altair sailors who had been rescued.

About an hour after the Kokuka Courageous’ distress call, a US aircraft observed an IRGC Hendijan-class patrol boat and multiple IRGC fast attack craft and fast inshore attack craft near the Altair, Urban said.

In a statement on Thursday evening, the Iranian mission to the United Nations said Tehran “categorically rejects the US unfounded claim with regard to 13 June oil tanker incidents and condemns it in the strongest possible terms.”

Urban said the United States would defend its interests and warned that Thursday’s attacks were a threat to international freedom of navigation and freedom of commerce.

“The United States has no interest in engaging in a new conflict in the Middle East,” Urban added. “However, we will defend our interests.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told journalists on Thursday that the US assessment of Iran's involvement was based in part on intelligence, as well as the expertise needed for the operation. 

It was also based on recent incidents in the region, which the US also blamed on Iran, including the use of limpet mines in the Fujairah attack, he said. 

"Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation and an unacceptable campaign of escalating tension by Iran," Pompeo said. He didn't elaborate and took no questions.

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