Limpet mines were used in attack on tanker: US navy - GulfToday

Limpet mines were used in attack on tanker: US navy


The crew of the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous tanker are seen off the coast of Fujairah on Wednesday. Reuters

The US Navy reiterated on Wednesday that a limpet mine was responsible for the explosion on the vessel Kokuka Courageous, one of two tankers that came under suspected attack in the Gulf of Oman on June 13.

Initial investigations into the incident by the US NAVCENT (Naval Forces Central Command) found that two limpet mines had been attached to the Kokuka Courageous, a senior official told journalists.

NAVCENT’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team determined that one mine had caused the explosion while the other, unexploded, had been removed by a boat of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Commander Sean Kido, the Commanding Officer of Task Group 56.1 - Explosive Ordnance Dive and Salvage, said at a press briefing here.

Based on the nature of the physical damage to the vessel and materials recovered from the hull, Kido said, NAVCENT had assessed with a high degree of confidence that it was a limpet mine that “bears a striking resemblance” to mines publicly displayed by Iran in military parades and open-source documents.

The damage was not consistent with an external flying object, Kido said.

He said that the USA is continuing the investigations into the incident in co-operation with its allies in the region, and that they encourage all parties to respect the free flow of commerce.

Before the press briefing, officials from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team showed material evidence collected from the Kokuka Courageous that indicated the presence and removal of a limpet mine. This evidence included a magnet and composite material, along with aluminium fragments, two holes made by nails and a hand-print on the hull.

The nail holes and magnet left on the hull indicated how the mine was attached to the ship, they said.

The Kokuka Courageous and the other vessel hit during the June 13 attacks, the tanker Front Altair, are currently at anchor off the UAE’s East Coast.

Kido said that the physical evidence suggested that several people may have been involved in fixing the ordnance to the vessels.

It was likely, he said, that the mines had been placed above the water level on both vessels, probably detonated by timers.

The Norwegian-owned Front Altair was hit by three explosions, with no injuries being reported.

The incidents have fuelled tensions that broke out with the US pullout last year from world powers’ 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, followed by fresh US sanctions to stifle Tehran’s vital oil trade, and a retaliatory Iranian threat this week to resume uranium enrichment in breach of the deal.

France and Germany said on Wednesday they would crank up efforts to halt any spiral towards conflict with Iran, but time was running out and the risk of war could not be ruled out.

Iran’s signal of preparedness to stockpile enriched uranium beyond the deal’s limit, and refine uranium to a fissile purity higher than deemed necessary for civilian uses, prompted US President Donald Trump to warn on Tuesday he was ready to take military action to stop Tehran developing a nuclear bomb.

But Trump also left open whether he would support the use of force to protect Gulf oil supplies Washington fears might be put in jeopardy by Iran in the brewing confrontation.

“We want to unify our efforts so that there is a de-escalation process that starts,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters in Paris.

“There is still time and we hope all the actors show more calm. There is still time, but only a little time.”

In another incident likely to aggravate the stand-off, a rocket crashed onto a site in southern Iraq used by foreign oil companies on Wednesday, including U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil, wounding three people.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack near the southern Iraqi city of Basra, not far from the Iranian border - the fourth time in a week that rockets have struck near U.S. installations.

An Iraqi security source said it appeared that Iran-backed groups in southern Iraq were behind the Basra incident.