The company that owns one of the two oil tankers attacked Thursday near the Strait of Hormuz contradicted Trump administration and U.S. military reports linking the incident to an Iranian sea mine.
U.S. Central Command said that the Norwegian-owned MT Front Altair and the Japanese Kokura Courageous were attacked Thursday by a limpet mine, which is attached to ships below the water line. The military released a video that officials claimed showed an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps patrol boat removing an unexploded mine from the 560-foot Courageous.
But an official of the company that owns the Courageous said Friday that the vessel appeared to be struck in the Gulf of Oman by something that “flew towards the ship,” NBC reported.
“We received reports that something flew towards the ship,” Yutaka Katada, president of Kokaku Sangyo Co., said at a press conference, according to NBC. “The place where the projectile landed was significantly higher than the water level, so we are absolutely sure that this wasn’t a torpedo. I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship.”
CNN, citing an unnamed military source, reported Friday that in the hours before the ships were attacked, Iran fired a surface-to-air missile at a U.S. drone flying over the Gulf of Oman. The drone, which was not struck, had spotted Iranian vessels beginning to close in on the tankers, the source said.
President Donald Trump insisted in an interview Friday that the attack had “Iran written all over it.” The previous day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the attacks part of an Iranian “campaign” of “escalating tensions.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif dismissed the accusations, saying they were without a “shred” of evidence.
The firm that operates the Front Altair told The Associated Press that an explosion was the cause of the fire on its ship but offered no other details. All crew members on both ships were safely evacuated. One person on the Courageous suffered a minor injury.
Trump critics are fearful that the president is spoiling for war and will exploit the latest tensions caused by the blasts. He has been baiting Iran for months with sanctions and relentless criticism after pulling out of the nuclear pact with Tehran reached by the Obama administration. A Washington Post editorial Friday lashed at Trump for applying “‘maximum pressure’ on the Islamic republic without any accompanying diplomacy.”
Trump has “ordered a series of provocative actions toward the Islamic republic that, on Thursday, produced the entirely predictable images of oil tankers burning near the Strait of Hormuz — and the very real danger of escalation toward armed conflict,” the newspaper’s editorial board warned.
The paper urged a “credible diplomatic outreach to Iran” by Trump, “perhaps in concert with the Europeans.” He should “set goals that are achievable. De-escalation by both sides would be a good start,” the Post added.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had traveled Wednesday to Iran in a bid to improve deteriorating relations between Washington and Tehran. He left Thursday as the oil tankers burned.
Russian President Vladimir Putin met Friday with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Kyrgyzstan and praised the relationship between the two nations.