On Thursday, American officials released images which they said show that Iran was involved in an attack on an oil tanker near the entrance to the Persian Gulf, one of a pair of incidents that have raised tensions between the US and the Islamic Republic over the past day.
An Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps patrol boat “was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the Kokuka Courageous,” one of two tankers attacked on Thursday, according to Navy Captain Bill Urban of the US Central Command.
That was after another mine had already detonated, damaging the ship, the US said.
“Both vessels were in international waters in the Gulf of Oman approximately 10 nautical miles apart at the time of the distress calls,” Urban said in a statement, adding that the crew of the Courageous was rescued by a Dutch tug and later taken aboard the USS Bainbridge. He said that the crew of the second tanker, the Front Altair, were put aboard a Revolutionary Guard Corp vessel.
The manager of the Norwegian-owned Front Altair said it was sailing in international waters when it was damaged by an explosion, and that the episode was being treated as a “hostile attack.” The ship had loaded a cargo of naphtha in Abu Dhabi and was bound for Taiwan, a company official said.
Hours before Central Command provided its evidence to bolster the US accusations, Pompeo pinned the blame at Iran but declined to take questions from reporters.
“The United States will defend its forces, interests and stand with our partners and allies to safeguard global commerce and regional stability,” Pompeo said, noting that Iran had previously threatened to curtail oil transport in the Strait of Hormuz.