The United States military has released a video it says shows an Iranian boat removing a mine from one of the two oil tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman.
The two tankers,the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous and the Norwegian-owned MT Front Altair,were attacked Thursday in the important waterway.Both carried oil products.After the attack,the Front Altair burned for hours,sending up long clouds of thick,black smoke into the air.
A military spokesman,Captain Bill Urban,said black-and-white video and also photographs show an Iranian Revolutionary Guard boat next to the Kokuka Courageous.He said the video shows the Iranians removing an unexploded mine.
Speaking later Friday with Fox News,U.S.President Donald Trump spoke about the video and Iran.He said,"that was their boat.That was them,and they didn't want the evidence left behind."
In Tokyo,the owner of Kokuka Courageous said Friday that the tanker had been attacked twice.One explosion,the company said,took place near the engine room of the ship and at another place near the back.
Company president Yutaka Katada said the crew saw a"flying object"just before the second explosion.The report suggests that the tanker may not have been damaged by mines.Katada also said the crew saw an Iranian naval ship nearby.He did not say whether this was before or after the attacks.
Thursday's attack is similar to an attack in May on four oil tankers near the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.U.S.officials accused Iran at the time of targeting the ships with magnetic mines.The explosions from the mines were designed to disable ships,not to sink them.
Iran has denied being involved in the attack,accusing the U.S.of carrying out an"Iranophobic campaign"against it.However,Iran has used mines against oil tankers in 1987 and 1988,in what become known as the"Tanker War."The U.S.Navy,at the time,escorted ships through the Gulf area.
U.S.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the attacks on Thursday.He said the U.S.made the judgement"based on intelligence,the weapons used,the level of expertise needed to execute the operation,[and]recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping."He added that no other group in the area has the resources and the ability to carry out such an attack.
At the United Nations,the Security Council met to discuss the tanker incidents late Thursday at the request of the U.S.but took no action.
Tension has been rising in the area because Iran has warned that it is ready to break its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.The Trump administration withdrew from that agreement last year.
Under the deal reached with China,Russia,France,Germany,Britain and the U.S.,Iran had agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
In May,the U.S.sent an aircraft carrier battle group to the Persian Gulf in response to,what it said,were threats from Iran.
The latest attack on the two tankers happened as Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting with Iranian leaders in an effort to lower tensions in the area.Iran's leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned after the meeting that,while it does not seek nuclear weapons,"America could not do anything"to stop Iran if it did.