- The owner of one of two oil tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday says the crew saw “flying objects” before the ship was hit, seeming to contradict the US government’s narrative.
- The US military said it saw what it thought was an unexploded mine on the side of the ship, and it released a video that it said showed Iranian forces removing it from the ship.
- US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the attacks on the two ships and accused it of trying to drive up global oil prices. Iran denies this.
- The Japanese ship owner called reports of a mine attack “false” and said the crew may have come under gunfire.
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The owner of one of the two oil tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday says the crew saw “flying objects” just before the ship was hit, seeming to contract a narrative from the US government suggesting mines were involved.
Yutaka Katada, the CEO of the Japanese shipping company Kokuka Sangyo, discussed the incident with reporters in Tokyo on Friday.
He said sailors on the Kokuka Courageous saw the objects above the water, and suggested they could be bullets, The Associated Press reported.
This seems to contradict the account given by the US miltary, which said it saw what appeared to be an unexploded limpet mine on the side of the ship.
US Central Command released photos of what it called a “likely limpet mine” on the side of the Kokuka Courageous, noticed by the USS Bainbridge, a US warship deployed in the area that came to rescue the oil tanker’s crew.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday blamed Iran for the attacks on the two ships, accusing it of trying to drive up global oil prices.
“These were efforts by the Iranians to raise the price of crude oil throughout the world,” he said.
He called the attacks an “unacceptable escalation of tension by Iran.” Iran has denied any involvement and accused the US of leading an “Iranophobic campaign” against it.
Pompeo said the US’s conclusions were “based on the level of expertise for the execution, and recent 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.”
The US military’s Central Command also shared a video that it said showed Iranian forces removing what seemed to be an unexploded limpet mine from the ship.
Here's that video:
Not the best resolution, but it might be the closest we've got yet in terms of purported evidence linking the attacks to Iran. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/ySihgJshNr
— Ben Watson (@natsecwatson) June 14, 2019
Katada, the Japanese executive, called reports of a mine attack “false”on Friday and said the ship could not have been attacked by mines or a torpedo as the objects seen by the crew were above the water.
The company that chartered the other ship that was attacked, the Front Altair, said it was “suspected of being hit by a torpedo.”
Katada also said the crew saw an Iranian naval ship near the Kokuka Courageous, the AP reported, but did not specify whether this was before or after the attacks.
The Kokuka Courageous was attacked twice, and all 21 crew members evacuated, leaving one “slightly injured.”
The Front Altair was also evacuated, with all crew on board safe.
The attacks near the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil route, have left oil prices surging and could result in a showdown between the US and Iranian militaries.