Published: Fri, June 14, 2019
Economy | By

USA releases video accusing Iran of tanker attack, Tehran blasts ‘Iranophobic campaign’

USA releases video accusing Iran of tanker attack, Tehran blasts ‘Iranophobic campaign’

The Japanese company that owns the "Kokuka Courageous" tanker has said its crew spotted "flying objects" before the attack in the Gulf of Oman, contradicting United States claims that the vessel was damaged by a naval mine.

The United States has concluded that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for alleged attacks Thursday on one Norwegian and one Japanese tanker, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced at a press briefing.

However, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the Iranian navy came to "help" the ships and had "saved" their crews.

Iran's representative to the United Nations said: "The US and its regional allies must stop warmongering and put an end to mischievous plots and false flag operations in the region".

He did not immediately offer concrete evidence but said it was based on USA intelligence of the type of weapons used and the expertise needed to execute the strikes.

On Thursday night, United States Central Command spokesman Bill Urban released a video of what the USA military said was an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp Gashti Class patrol boat, approaching the Kokuka Courageous, which showed "removing (an) unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous".

An Iranian navy boat sprays water to extinguish a fire on an oil tanker in the sea of Oman, Thursday, June 13, 2019.

Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei told Abe during his visit to Iran that Tehran would not repeat its "bitter experience" of negotiating with the United States, state media reported.

Pompeo speculated in his address this morning that Iran is "lashing out, because the regime wants our successful maximum pressure campaign lifted".

Yutaka Katada, president of Kokuka Sangyo, told reporters on Friday that sailors on board the ill-fated oil tanker observed "flying objects" just before the incident in which the ship caught fire and was badly damaged.

"Suspicious doesn't begin to describe what likely transpired", he wrote on Twitter earlier on Thursday. He didn't elaborate and took no questions. One of the officials claimed a U.S. military aircraft recorded the footage.

Mr Hunt told the BBC: "This is deeply worrying and comes at a time of already huge tension".

"Facts must be established and responsibilities clarified", he said.

United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the attacks, warning that the world can not afford "a major confrontation in the Gulf region".

The two vessels were struck by explosions in the early daylight hours Thursday after passing through the Strait of Hormuz and travelling around 25 nautical miles off Iran's southern coast headed towards Asia.

A second Japanese-owned tanker was abandoned after being hit by a suspected torpedo, the firm that chartered the ship said. A short time later, the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, loaded with methanol from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, also called for help.

The Bahrain-based U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet said it was assisting the two tankers on Thursday after receiving distress calls.

Centcom also released photographs showing the apparent mine, which attaches to the side of a ship magnetically, before it was removed later in the day.

"Tension across the Middle East is high - and the attacks on two tankers have further exacerbated the situation, even though there does not appear to have been any damage to the cargos", John Hall, chairman of British-based consultancy Alfa Energy, said.

"This would seem very clumsy timing from a country (Iran) seeing the first tangible signs of any easing of the crippling sanctions imposed by the Americans", Bloomberg columnist Julian Lee wrote in an op-ed. "Whoever is behind the attacks is no friend of Iran". After meeting Rouhani on Wednesday, Abe warned of unintended clashes in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Iranian-allied rebels in Yemen have increased their missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, which has been at war in Yemen against the rebels since 2015.

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