- The Pentagon released around a dozen photos Monday afternoon, with some providing a clearer image of the suspected crew of an alleged Iranian patrol boat taking what the US military says is an unexploded limpet mine from off the side of one of the damaged tankers.
- The US military argues that “Iran is responsible for the attack,” explaining that Iran had “the resources and proficiency needed to quickly remove the unexploded limpet mine,” suggesting familiarity with the weapon.
- The US blamed Iran for an attack on four tankers in May, which an investigation concluded likely involved limpet mines as well.
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The US military released around a dozen additional photos from last week’s tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman as it builds a case against Iran.
The US military has concluded that the tankers, the Kokuka Courageous and the Front Altair, were damaged last Thursday by Iranian limpet mines, weapons that are attached to the hulls of ships using magnets or nails and then detonated either remotely or on a timer.
The new photos, none of which definitively tie the attacks to Iran, build on evidence released last week.
Iran, which notoriously mined the Persian Gulf during the “Tanker Wars” in the late 1980s, has used these weapons in the past. Most recently, Iran is believed to have used them last month in an attack on four tankers off the coast of the UAE.
The damage to the Kokuka Courageous, the US military has explained, is consistent with limpet mines. The damage to the Front Altair was more severe than that of the other tanker due to the fact that the explosion ignited a fire aboard the ship.
One of the explosives placed on the hull of the Kokuka Courageous did not explode during the attacks. When the ship’s crew discovered the mine, they quickly abandoned ship with the help of the Dutch tug Coastal Ace and the US Navy destroyer USS Bainbridge, the Pentagon explained.
Later, a suspected Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Gashti-class patrol boat approached the ship and removed the device. The crew was caught on tape by the crew of a US Navy MH-60R helicopter.
Remnants of what the US says is the mine, along with hand prints of the crew that removed it, were discovered on the hull of the tanker.
The US military says that “Iran is responsible for the attack,” explaining that Iran had “the resources and proficiency needed to quickly remove the unexploded limpet mine,” signalling familiarity with the weapon, as well as potential culpability in the attack.
“It is the assessment of the US government that Iran is responsible for today’s attacks in the Gulf of Oman,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last Thursday. President Donald Trump also blamed Iran in an interview on “Fox & Friends” last Friday.
“Iran’s continued unprovoked attacks in the region are a threat to international security and peace and an assault against freedom of navigation on the open seas,” Acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan said in a statement last Thursday.
The latest visual evidence comes as the US tries to fill the information gap and build an international consensus on Iran’s alleged involvement in the attacks.
Iran has repeatedly denied the allegations against it, accusing the US of putting unfair pressure on the regime.
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